Now into its 21st year, NTL in a league of its own
THE on-field speed of the players and ball movement in the National Touch League is so fast that if you blink you just might miss the match-winning play.
Australia's best touch footballers are ready to kick off this morning at the C.ex Coffs International Stadium and surrounding fields in the 2017 Touch Football Australia National Touch League.
This week marks 21 years of NTL action, with a large majority of those tournaments being played here in Coffs Harbour.
Touch Football Australia CEO Colm Maguire said the growth in the sport and the amazing development of the skills and the speed since the inaugural tournament were aspects of the sport he was extremely proud of.
"If I compare it to the very first one, I think the game had only just really moved to six-a-side. We've now got a full evolution where people were part-time touch players when that elite competition started in 1997," Maguire said.
"Now we have regular Trans-Tasmans, we have Elite Eights series, we have a television product and a broad live streaming audience that can see what these amazing players can do. It's just incredible."
This week's tournament will feature 122 teams spanning the breadth of the country across 15 divisions, ranging from T League (teams with a combination of up to 10 under-20s players and six over-20s players) through to Men's 55s.
It adds up to about 2000 players and officials, all striving for national championships honours.
With such a big prize on offer, Maguire said the heat would be on from today's first whistle right through to Saturday's finals.
"If you make one mistake at a crucial moment it can cost you a national championship, and I think that's what's great about our game," he said.
The big highlights over the next four days will be provided in the Elite Eights Series.
Now in its sixth year, both the men's and women's Elite Eights features the cream of Australia's touch football crop.
It involves eight teams in both the men's and women's divisions. There's four teams from New South Wales (Scorpions, Country Mavericks, Mets and Rebels); three from Queensland (Titans, Broncos and Cowboys); and one from the rest of Australia (the Alliance).