League's generation next on show at NTL
WHILE there are some genuine former NRL stars playing in Coffs Harbour this week, Touch Football Australia chief executive Colm Maguire said the National Touch League is fast becoming an exercise in spotting the next generation of stars.
"Recognising NRL players here is one thing, you've got the Scott Prince's and the Cliffy Lyons' who continue to come back but I think what's occurring now is we're actually looking at the players that have played here and are now making themselves known in the NRL environment," Maguire said.
"Benji Marshall started his career as a touch player, Shaun Johnson who started himself as a touch player but now you're having the Bevan French's that are coming through. I know St George has Tristan Sailor who's played in the under-18s championships.
"So there's a lot of good touch players coming through now that have actually played in the NTL and are now making their NRL debut."
And the rising stars aren't just playing so they can be noticed by talent scouts.
Maguire said this week also offers the lure of being selected in an Australian team.
"We've got our Trans Tasman series in May on the Sunshine Coast and that's going to be exciting. We're two years out from a World Cup and that's incredible to think about that we were only here two years ago battling it out to retain our number one status," he said.
"It's a total rejuvenation of the program.
"We just had our Youth Trans Tasman series in New Zealand and although we clean sweeped that, it really went down to the wire in a lot of those divisions so we've got to continue to have the forum for people to participate at this level so that when we do play Australia we're taking it to the next level every time and ready for our 2019 World Cup in Malaysia."
Maguire played in the very first National Touch League back in 1997 and he said choosing the national teams now is a much more difficult task comapred to when the NTL was in its infancy.
"Now we've got players that can throw a ball from the middle of the field and hit someone on the chest on the wing," he said.
"It's just an incredible game that's changed over those 21 years and it will continue to evolve as well."