If anybody wants to see how far touch rugby has evolved they should go to youtube and search either NTL touch or state of origin touch and watch a game or two - the standard is awesome. Rather than RL or RU trying to claim touch as their own outsiders should realise that in Australia there are dozens of touch clubs with pitches and facilities similar to that of conference clubs in this country with hundreds of members. We've just had the european championships in bristol a few weeks ago with many countries playing a high level of touch and we have players who only train and play touch not RL or RU. About 10 years ago the Aussie womens touch team beat the Aussie RL mens team at touch! I represented GB on their first trip to aus in 1996 and played in the new south wales cup. Initial games lasted just 15 mins but I remember getting beat 14-0 by Penrith who at the time were one of the best teams in the country. What people should also realise is that RL and RU players have been playing touch for years all over the country (big in Cardiff and London) and they even have a national touch league developed to allow the best players the opportunity to play each other. In the passed there were usually just 4 main comps in the summer in Halifax, Wigan, Cardiff and Richmond but this has evolved since when I took the game seriously. Alot of RL clubs are running touch comps in the summer but they play more drive and pass with too much contact and don't ref the rules correctly (this frustrates touch players) and therefore most of the touch been played out there is a hybrid of the proper game and what RL and RU clubs have been doing at the end of training anyway. The best way to describe touch is to say that there are as many differences with RL as there are similarites, however, the distinct benefits are fitness and longevity for the older players, social aspect for the mixed sex and age group teams and for the youngsters an opportunity to develop handling skills in the summer months without the fear of been creamed.
Touch started in Australia in the early 1960s as a social or "park" game and as a training technique for rugby league. It was not then viewed as a sport in its own right. It was formalised into a sport proper by the "Founders of Touch", Bob Dyke and Ray Vawdon of the South Sydney Junior Rugby League Club. On 13 July 1968 the "South Sydney Touch Football Club" was formed and the sport of Touch Football was born. The first official game of Touch was played in late 1968 and the first official competition, organised by Dyke & Vawdon, was held at Snape Park, Sydney in 1969. From these humble beginnings the game quickly became a fully regulated and codified sport. It was first played in Brisbane in 1972 and by 1973 there were representative games. It had spread to New Zealand by 1975. .
The establishment of the first 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 ATFA to provide the prelude game. With a crowd of 40,000+ this game helped to raise the profile of Touch in Australia 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 national rugby league team in a high-scoring match, with the local team winning with a disputed touchdown on the siren. As more people began to play Touch more organised competitions developed.
The game has also expanded rapidly in recent years, especially in the South Pacific and United Kingdom. Touch World Cups now attract up to 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, South Korea and the Channel Islands.
Touch is played in every Australian state, and is particularly popular in the rugby league strongholds of Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT. There are currently over 250,000 registered Touch players, 500,000 schoolchildren, and up to 100,000 casual players playing the sport. The peak body is Touch Football Australia.