The History of Touch Rugby (Football)

The History of Touch Rugby (Football)

I’ve been playing touch rugby (known as touch football in Australia and New Zealand) for a few years now. I absolutely love the sport and take every opportunity to pick up a touch bowl and fling it around a park with some mates.

I thought it would be great to share the history of the game with you to see how it has progressed over the years.

Where the Game Started

Touch started in Australia in 1963 as a social or “park” game. It was not then viewed as a sport in its own right. It was formalised into a sport properly by the “Founders of Touch”, Bob Dyke and Ray Vawdon of the South Sydney Junior Rugby League Club. On 13 July 1968 the “South Sydney Touch Football Club” was formed and the sport of Touch Football was born. The first actual official game of Touch was played in late 1968 and the first official competition, organised by Dyke & Vawdon, was held at Snape Park, Sydney in 1969. From these humble beginnings the game quickly became a fully regulated and codified sport. It had spread to New Zealand by 1975.

When the Game was Formalised

The establishment of the first national body, the Australian Touch Football Association came in 1976. A highlight came after the drawn Sydney Rugby League Grand Final of 1977 when the rematch needed a curtain-raiser and rugby league officials asked the newly formed ATFA to provide the prelude game. With a crowd of 40,000+ this game helped to raise the profile of Touch in Australia and was nothing short of spectacular according to Bob Dyke in the book “The Story of Touch”. Another profile raiser came in 1978 when the Sydney Metropolitan Touch Football side played the touring Great Britain national rugby league team in a high-scoring match, with the local team winning with a disputed touchdown on the siren. As more people began to play Touch more organised competitions developed.

Where the Game is Now

The game has also expanded rapidly in recent years, especially in Asia, the South Pacific, Europe and United Kingdom. Touch World Cups now attract over 50 nations including Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, China, Chinese Taipei, Chile, Cook Islands, Egypt, England, France, Fiji, Germany, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Iran, Italy, Jersey, Japan, Kenya, Kiribati, Malaysia, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Samoa, Scotland, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tonga, Tuvalu, Wales, United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

South Africa started playing Touch Rugby in the 1990s and have attended all the Touch World cups since 1995. We are currently ranked No. 3 in the world and are slowly edging closer to the dominate Australia and New Zealand. Who knows, maybe the 2015 World Cup will see us take home gold in one of the Open categories?

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