Touch football (rugby league)

Touch football (rugby league)

Touchis a field game also known as Touch Football (particularly in Australia), Six Down (in South Africa) and Touch Rugby. In games of Touch, which originated from the sport of rugby league, touching an opposing player replaces a tackle, reducing the physical nature of the full contact game. Touch is overseen world-wide by the Federation of International Touch (FIT).

Touch is considered to have a number of advantages over the sport of rugby league, including the ease of learning and the ability to play it without fear of major injury. One of the best considered aspects of the sport of Touch is its broad appeal. It is played by both sexes, and in age divisions from primary school children to over-50s known as Masters. The mixed version of the game (where both male and female players are on the field at the same time) is particularly popular with social players.

The game helps to develop essential skills and fitness for use in rugby league, rugby union and other sports. Schools have used Touch as part of their curriculum to avoid the inevitable major injuries that can stem from full contact sports.

Touch also scores in the lack of required equipment department. As kicking is not part of Touch, goal-posts are not required and the game can be played with minimal facilities (a ball and a rectangular playing area). There is also no special clothing required and it can often be played barefoot.

The game of Touch has a number of variations including:
*Beach Touch, where the defence has one less player than the attack and as the name suggests, is played on beach.
*1-Touch, where the attacking team is allowed 1 possession to score before handing the ball over.


These rules discuss the most common form of touch as governed by the Federation of International Touch but minor local variations are common. For the full set of rules see [ F.I.T. Rulebook]


The goal is to score more points than the other team. Each point is known as a Touchdown. A Touchdown is scored by placing the ball in the opponent's in-goal area, and is worth one point. There are no other methods of scoring.Some local competitions may introduce by-laws which allow multiple points to be awarded for Touchdowns under certain situations. The most common variation is awarding 2 points for a Touchdown scored by a female player in a mixed game.


;The Touch:The main defensive tactic in the game of Touch, similar to a tackle in other codes of football. It forces the attacking team to stop and restart play (see roll-ball).

* A touch is performed by the defensive team on any part of the body or clothing of the current ball carrier for the attacking team, or the ball itself.
* At the moment of a touch, it is customary for the defensive player who is performing the touch to shout "Touch", which alerts both the attacking and defensive teams and the referees that the player has been touched. This however is not required, but accepted as common-place.
* After six touches, known as a "set-of-six" or "set", possession transfers from the attacking to the defensive team, provided the touch-count has not re-started at any time during the set.
* The "Mark" is the position where the ball carrier was touched and the ensuing roll-ball must be performed. In the case of a Penalty, the mark is where the Tap must be performed.
* If a hand-over is considered to be not in good sportsmanship a penalty may be awarded. This may be if the ball was thrown to the ground, not given to the opposition by hand or deliberately delayed by the former attacking side.
*If a player passes the ball after a touch has been made it is called a "Touch and Pass" and is penalised by the loss of possession.

;Roll ball:The ball carrier must perform a "roll-ball" when they have been touched by the opposition. The roll ball is performed by placing the ball on the mark, and either rolling the ball backwards, or stepping forward over it. The ball is picked up by another player on the attacking team, who is known as the "acting-half" or "half" for that play. NB: If the ball "is" rolled, it cannot travel more than one metre.


The "Acting-Half" or "Dummy half" is the player who takes possession of the ball during the "roll-ball". The role of "Acting-Half" terminates when they pass the ball, so that none of the restrictions of the position apply if the player receives the ball again during the play.
* The "Acting-Half" can run with the ball but the ball is typically passed from the mark where the roll ball took place.
* If an "Acting-Half" is touched with the ball, the attacking team loses possession.
* The "Acting-Half" cannot score a touchdown.
* As soon as the "Acting-Half" touches the ball, the defense has the right to move, unless local by-laws prevent it.
* A time constraint is set upon the "Acting-Half" and if the player takes too long in retrieving the ball a penalty may be rewarded to the opposition. The majority of the time, the referee will call "play on" and allow the defense to move up and either touch the "Acting-Half" or claim the ball.
* Any player other than the player who rolls the ball can become the "Acting-Half".NB: Local by-laws may be introduced restricting the movement of the "Acting-Half". Similarly, they may also allow the Acting-Half to score or relinquish other restrictions placed on the position.

;The T

Play is started from a "Tap" because it is either: the start of the game, the second half, the resumption of play after a touchdown or a penalty.
* The "tap" is performed by an attacking player placing the ball on the ground, touching the ball with their foot, then picking it up and playing. "NB: The ball must be released from the hands and come into contact with the ground or a change of possession occurs."
* The defensive team must stay at a minimum distance of 10 meters from the "Mark" during the "tap", unless they are positioned on their own scoreline.
* The defensive players can move after the ball carrier has touched the ball with his foot.
* The player who has performed the "tap" may be touched without losing possession.
* The attacking side must be positioned behind the ball when it is tapped.
* The attacking side may move the ball up to 10 meters directly behind the given "mark" when taking a penalty tap. In this case, the defending side must still remain 10-metres from the "original mark", not the new "mark".

;The penalty:

On being awarded a "penalty", the resultant ball carrier must perform a "tap". If the referee believes that a player behaves in an aggressive way in his connection or with regard to other players, the player may be sin-binned (a period of time where the player stands in the middle of the dead-ball line) or may be removed for the remainder of the game (player automatically receives a 2-match suspension).

A penalty is granted to an opponent team if:
* the ball is passed forward.
* a "Touch and Pass" is committed (a pass after being touched).
* a player does not perform the "roll ball" at the Mark.(Overstepping)
* an obstruction is committed.
* If a player acts in a contrary way to the rules (off-side, time-wasting, excessive force used when making a touch, phantom touch (calling a touch when they clearly didn't make one), dispute with a decision of the referee, etc).


;The field :
* The field is of rectangular form and dimension of 70 X 50 metres (ie one half of a rugby league field).

;The ball :
* Touch balls are oval and slightly smaller than rugby league or union balls.

;Clothing :
* Players typically wear light clothing such as T-shirts or polo shirts and shorts, women generally wear lycra bike shorts and sometimes athletic briefs. All shirts must be numbered.
* Female players sometimes wear swimsuit-style lycra bodysuits.

;Footwear :
* Players normally wear soft rubber cleated shoes, similar to those used in other grass sports such as cricket and field hockey. Screw-in cleats are strictly prohibited. The soles of Touch shoes must not measure more than 13mm in height and must be made of molded rubber/plastic. They should bend if pushed. Most people wear these sort of shoes but you may also wear footy boots.

Composition of the teams and replacements

* The teams can be male, female or mixed.
* Each team can consist of up to 14 players, normally including 6 players on the field at any one time (Local by-laws may permit 7 or more players on-field and/or more in a team).
* Typically mixed teams must have among these 6 players of field at least 3 females and 1 male, although these minimums may be and commonly are changed to suit local conditions and competitions
* There is no limit to the number of substitutions a player can make.
* Substitutions may be made at any time provided the players are in the designated substitution box. Play is continuous and does NOT stop for substititions.

Mode of play and duration

;Mode of play
*The ball can be passed backwards (but not kicked) between team mates who attempt to evade defenders and score touchdowns. Local by-laws may be introduced to allow kicking.

;Duration :
*The official duration is 40 minutes (two 20-minutes halves) with a 5 minute halftime, though other durations may be changed to suit local conditions and competitions.


The ball is returned to the opposing team :
* after a try;
* after six touches;
* if the "acting-half" gets touched;
* from an intercept;
* from a dropped ball or other failure to maintain possession.


Touch started in Australia as a social "park" game and as a training technique for rugby league teams during the 1950s and 60s. The two persons accredited with starting it all and now known as the "Founders" were Robert (Bob) Dyke and Ray Vawdon, both members of the South Sydney Junior Rugby League Club. They have since been awarded Life Membership. On July 13th 1968 the Secretary/Manager of South Sydney League's Club handed over the Official letter to signify the formation of "The South Sydney Touch Football Club", and the sport of Touch Football was born. The first official game of Touch Football was played in late 1968 and the first official competition, organised by Dyke & Vawdon, was held at Snape Park, Kingsford, Sydney, Australia in 1969. From these beginnings the game became a fully regulated and codified interstate sport in Australia in the early 1970s and an International Sport in the Mid-70s. The "Bob Dyke Shield" is played for in the 'State of Origin'(QLD V NSW)competition in Australia, while the "Vawdon Cup" is played for by affiliates around the Sydney, NSW area. It is a common misconception that touch football was created for girls. In fact, it was created for both sexes.

The establishment of the 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 "Touch Football Association" to provide the prelude game. With a crowd of 40,000+ this game helped to raise the profile of Touch around the world 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 Rugby League Team, an excellent touchdown-scoring spectacle, with the local team winning with a disputed touchdown on the siren. As more people began to play Touch, organised competitions developed. Very soon other associations emerged and representative matches have been played since 1978.

The game has also expanded rapidly in recent years, especially in the South Pacific and United Kingdom. The 1999 World Cup in Sydney, Australia, attracted teams from over 20 nations including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, Lebanon, USA, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, England, Italy, Cook Islands, Fiji, Ireland, Malaysia, Kenya, Singapore, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Scotland, Wales, China, Chile and Korea.

The 2007 World Cup, held in Stellenbosch, South Africa, played host to 15 nations. The event was again dominated by the strongholds of Australia and New Zealand, but also featured strong performances by Lebanon, Samoa and host nation South Africa.


Touch is considered a friendly community-based game where competitions are usually undertaken in large parks close to residential areas. Competitions may be run by a Touch Association. There are usually several competitions for each division of men's, women's and mixed which are further divided into competitions based on participating teams skill levels.

Touch, whilst not a professional sport, does offer serious competitions in various countries including a World Cup.

International Competitions

World Cup

The next World Cup will be held in Scotland and because of its location is expected to attract great interest and a large showing by the many European countries who have embraced the sport.

Trans-Tasman Tests

There is a regular program of Tests between Australia and New Zealand known as Trans-Tasman Tests.

Masters Games

Touch is a very popular sport at the various Masters Games events, see the [ Masters Games website] .

World All School

The World All Schools event attracts hundreds of teams from schools around the world. It is held every 2 years. In 2006 the event was held in Singapore, prior to that it was held in Brisbane. In 2008 the event will return to Brisbane due to the cancellation of the event in New Zealand.

Touch football worldwide


Touch football quickly took hold in the rugby league strongholds of Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT. There are currently well over 300,000 registered Touch players in Australia with approximately 500,000 schoolchildren also playing the sport.

Australia's main competition is the National Touch League (NTL) held each March at Coffs Harbour, NSW. 13 permits representing all parts of Australia compete in open, under-20 and over-age (Masters) divisions in men's, women's and mixed. The permits have been designed to equalise competition between the traditionally strong Touch states of ACT, Queensland and NSW and the remainder of the country.

Touch has a State-of-Origin series every 2 years. The series is played between Touch strongholds Queensland and New South Wales.

School Sport Australia runs the National Championship Tournament and Exchange for Touch every year - the location moves from state to state. Most Australian States and Territories enter Boys and Girls teams in both the High School (15 and under) and Primary School (12 and under) divisions.

Touch Football Australia has Touch around Australia, including North and South [] Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales. They run an AusTouch course for school kids.


There are over 12,000 Touch players in England.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, Touch is the largest participation sport in the country. From the ground roots to the elite program, Touch is widely accepted NZ as the sport of choice for a healthy and active lifestyle. This is illustrated with a total of 19 Provinces competing at Nationals, 119 affiliated 'modules' or competitions and over 317,000 New Zealanders playing the game.

This figure is made up of 57,000 under 17 year olds and 260,000 adults. The delivery of the sport is supported by: 750 qualified referees along with team coaches and managers and 119 competition organisers.

The NZ Touch National Championships are held each year in March and the National Touch Series is a televised mixed competition event. The annual New Zealand Secondary Schools Tournament attracts a large number of participants and continues to grow each year.

The National Body is Touch New Zealand. []


Touch has been played in Scotland since 1991 in informal leagues in Edinburgh and [ Glasgow] . The sport soon spread to Aberdeen with a well established league forming soon afterwards. At Heriot-Watt University, two Sport Science Students, John Houston and Nick Grier, organized an Inter-University Touch Tournament, originally taking place in the 3rd term. The first winners of "The Lopez Cup" came through the group stages unbeaten and won the final convincingly. From humble beginnings of only 8 teams the tournament is now a yearly success with over 32-teams registered.

In 2005, the Scottish Touch Association (STA) was formally constituted as the governing body to help develop the sport. By 2007 the association had welcomed new participants from Dundee, Perth and Stirling to join existing leagues, held its first formal national championships, trained over 150 referees and won the tender to host the 2011 World Cup in Edinburgh.

outh Africa

[ South African Touch Association] .

In South Africa Touch Rugby has grown incredibly since official inception 13 years ago. South Africa have had National representation at the 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2007 Touch World Cups.

There are already over 6,000 registered players in South Africa and growing rapidly.


The Swiss Touch Association sent a development team to the 2006 European Championships and 2007 World Cup. STA also sends teams to contest regular events in other tournaments in Europe.

United States

Though there are teams throughout the country, due to the relative novelty of the sport and the traveling distances, the national tournament is not as decisive as it is designed to be. There are big touch communities in Portland, OR (Home of the 2007 national champions), San Diego, CA, Boston, MA and Houston, TX.

Glossary of Touch terms

Touch shares many terms in common with rugby league (eg cover-defence, offside, intercept). Below are some Touch-specific terms. The list is not meant to be comprehensive, and there are some regional variations.

*"Buddy": two or three referees in control of the one game, alternating between central refereeing and touch judge duties.
*"Dump": a quick play-the-ball to further attacking opportunities from the ensuing play.
*"Fade": an angled run forwards and towards the wing/sideline in an attempt to draw defenders out of position.
*"Half" or "Dummy" or "Dummy-Half": the player who receives the ball following the play-the-ball.
*"Phantom": a defensive player claiming a touch when no touch had in fact been made. Frowned upon by the vast majority of players.
*"Ruck": a basic attacking move intended to promote the ball down the field rather than specifically result in a touchdown.
*"Scoop" or "Scoot": an attacking move following the dump, whereby a player runs from the half position in an attempt to get past the defensive line.
*"Solo": a single referee in control of a game on his/her own.
*"Snap": to beat (ie run past) your opposite number with the ball in hand.
*"Squeeze": a type of zone defence used to force attacking players to move the ball to the wings to gain and/or take advantage of an overlap (by which time the defence should have had time to re-align itself).
*"Switch": a "scissors" move between two attacking players.
*"Wrap": a variation on the switch move involving an additional pass back to the original ball carrier

ee also

* Touch rugby
* Tag Rugby
* Rugby league

External links

* [ Federation of International Touch Website]
* [ All Touch Rugby]
* []
* [ InTouch Web Design]


* [ South Africa Touch Association]
* [ Gauteng Touch]


* [ Paradise Touch (Hawaii)]
* [ Charlotte, NC]
* [ Touch Rugby Chile]


* [ Asian Touch Federation]
* [ Touch Rugby in China]
* [ Lebanon Touch (Lebanon Touch Association) Website]
* [ Shanghai Football Club pages on Touch football]
* [ Singapoore Touch football]
* [ Hong Kong Rugby Union pages on Touch football]
* [ Indonesia Touch football]


* [ Touch Football Europe]
* [ Belgian Touch (Touch Rugby Belgium) Website]
* [ French Touch (Touch Rugby France) Website]
* [ German Touch (Touch Deutschland) Website]
* [ Touch Rugby Italia]
* [ Swiss Touch (Swiss Touch Association) Website]
* [ Paris Touch Association, France]
* [ Touch Isère (France)]
* [ Touch München (Munich Touch Association, Germany)]
* [ Austrian Touch (Touch Rugby Austria) Website]


* [ English Touch (English Touch Association) Website]
* [ Guernsey Touch (Guernsey Touch Association) Website]
* [ Scottish Touch (Scottish Touch Association) Website]
* [ Wales Touch (Wales Touch Association) Website]
* [ Touch Rugby Competitions and Events in the UK]
* [ Touch Scotland National leagues]


* [ Papua New Guinea Touch football]


* [ Australian Touch (Touch Football Australia) Website]
* [ Queensland Touch Association]
* [ Touch Football South Australia]
* [ Touch Victoria]
* [ New South Wales Touch Association]
* [ TouchWest (Western Australia)]
* [ Touch Football ACT]
* [ Touch Football NT]
* [ Touch Football Tasmania]
* [ ANU Bears Touch Football Club]
* [ Touch Football Southern Tasmania]
* [ Tasmanian University Club]

New Zealand

* [ New Zealand Touch (TouchNZ) Website]
* [ Touch North Harbour (Touch North Harbour) Website]
* [ Auckland Touch Assn (Auckland Touch) Website]
* [ Canterbury Touch (Touch Canterbury) Website]
* [ Waikato Touch (Touch Waikato) Website]
* [ Southland Touch (Touch Southland) Website]

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