Day two of the Junior State Cup saw 519 games played with thousands flooding the ovals to compete, spectate and officiate. Amongst these were several former NRL stars showing their fandom to touch football. Greg Alexander (Penrith Panthers), David O’Donnell, (Manly Sea Eagles), Ashley Gordon (Newcastle Nights), and Joel Caine (West Tigers) who are accustomed to being cheered on themselves, set up camp next to the spectators to cheer on their families.
Joel Caine had an action packed day supporting his daughters, Milla and Reece, in their under 10’s and 12’s teams respectively, but took some time from the sideline to chat about his experiences with our sport.
“I played a bit of touch before I played league, but after I finished up with league I wanted to keep the buzz of competing going. Touch tournaments are just as tough as the league tournaments, so it is a great way to stay competitive”, he told us.
Joel also praised the NRL and Touch Football Australia partnership and the close connection the two sports share.
“What a fantastic arrangement. Some of the best league players were playing touch when they were at the peak of their careers such as Benji Marshall and Jamie Soward.
“I think more NRL clubs need to train with the Touch Football teams. I’ve never been the fittest player and I had the opportunity in my rugby league career to do one off-season training with the Cronulla men’s touch football side. I went back to training with the West Tigers and I was easily the fittest on the side,” Caine said.
Joining the NRL line-up is Cliff Lyons (Manly Sea Eagles) who made his Junior State Cup referee debut at this year’s tournament. Cliff spoke of his love for the touch football community and his enjoyment of refereeing at a state level.
“I recently started referring a couple of years ago and I have found a real passion for it. I am currently a level one referee and hope to have my level two badge by the end of the tournament”.
I became involved in touch football about 15 years ago. Some of my Manly rugby league friends were playing invited me along and I’ve loved it ever since. I am also playing in the 2017 NTL for Manly in the Men’s 55’s which I am looking forward to,” Lyons said.
We asked the sporting legend if he had any advice for anyone who wants to get involved in touch football, and his answer was simple… “Go and sign up now!”.
The Junior State Cup is just one example of our incredible touch football community providing opportunities for everyone to be involved at all levels.
Matt Bowen, Chris Flannery and Scott Prince, see you at next year’s Junior State Cup!