The 2018 Country Championships tapped off today at Dalton Park, home of the Wollongong Devils. In what started as the perfect weather for Touch, saw the last timeslot of the day stopped mid game due to the closeness of a lightning strikes and large storm cell travelling up from Canberra.
Reigning Men’s Open Champions, Doyalson Dragons, have continued their dominance by taking four from four on Day 1. Wollongong Devils 1 put on a show with Mitch Porter showing his remarkable skills in helping the team secure an impressive win over the Dubbo Devils 11-2. The team to watch come finals tomorrow, Wagga Wagga Vipers, had an impressive start to the day with Clinton Nix claiming a quadie to help his team to an 8 – 4 win over Albion Park Eagles.
The Wollongong Women’s Open Team started their campaign with a win over Tuggeranong Vikings. The Devils were a cut above their Parkes Pumas rivals (and last year’s runners up) taking the comprehensive win 11-1.
This year Country Championships have 3 NRL Premiership winning players participating including Jamie Soward, Nathan Fein and Daniel Fitzhenry.
Fien and Soward, who were once teammates, are instead this weekend lining up as oppositions. They have shared many successes together in their former NRL playing days including winning the 2010 NRL Premiership with the St George Dragons.
This weekend Fien will be representing the Wollongong Devils in the Men’s Over 30’s whist Soward will be lacing on the boots for the Wagga Wagga Vipers. For Soward this is a homecoming of sorts as he grew up representing Wagga Wagga, he gets opportunity to once again take the field with his mates of 20 odd years. Soward said “I started playing touch with Wagga Wagga back in Under 12’s where we went to Junior State Cup.” When asked what brought him here this weekend he said “it’s a great chance to catch up with friends and enjoy a few cold ones”.
Fien has had a fair amount of involvement in Touch Football with Wollongong in the past few years through his children, but this tournament will be a marked as his first representing the Devils.
Fien has been involved with the new Illawarra Touch Premiership, being run at Wollongong, which sees him represent Thirroul. When asked what he thought of the new competition he said “it has opened up my eyes to the skill level that involved with the game”.
Daniel Fitzhenery has been playing representative Touch Football for 2 years now representing the Newcastle City Knights. When asked what the difference was between touch football and rugby league he said “Touch is a lot quicker; it just like bang, bang you’re on the back foot which is totally different to league, but the advantage is you get on off”.
All three former NRL Players were in agreeance that the game of Touch Football is the perfect sport for aspiring Junior RL players to take up in off seasons; specifically helping with agility, speed & fitness. Soward said that “I didn’t like training myself in the offseason so for me, as much touch as possible”.