Lizzie Campbell. Nick Good. Cam Nicholls.
By the end of this story, you will have all been introduced to these talented humans.
As most of you know, at the beginning of this year I was lucky enough to go to Coffs Harbour with Touch Football Australia to watch their National Touch League tournament. I learnt a lot about touch football that weekend and shared those insights with all of you here. Note to readers, I still am not brave enough to wear my touch football hat backwards.
That weekend I was lucky enough to meet some very talented touch football players like Marikki Watego, Peta Rogerson and sisters Danielle and Shellie Davis. I cheered for Lachie Pearce, Scott Bundy and Leah Percy and learned that touch football was one of the fastest, most exciting games I had ever watched. I was hooked.
You can imagine my delight then, when I was invited to visit the Australian men’s, women’s and mixed touch football teams two weeks ago in Penrith as they prepared to travel across the Tasman to face arch rivals, New Zealand in the Trans Tasman Test Series.
When I arrived at camp, it was very close to lunch time. An ice cream van pulled up a couple of minutes after me. One of the first things I heard yelled out to the coach was ‘tell the ice cream man to wait 5 minutes’.
I knew I was in for a fun afternoon.
The teams were all in high spirits. Laughing, joking and spending time together at lunch before running more drills in the afternoon. The key though was togetherness.
A talking point for the Australian sporting public in recent weeks has been togetherness. The entire cricketing community watched a couple of weeks ago as the men’s and women’s West Indies T20 squads celebrated together in India following their T20 World Cup victories. Seeing the men and women’s team celebrating together as two teams from the same family was extremely powerful.
This is something touch football already do remarkably well – it really is a family and includes everyone involved in the teams from the players themselves, to the coaching staff to the administrators. The three teams trained within hundreds of metres from each other and shared facilities, staff and plenty of laughs during the camp.
Another common theme is having people involved who truly love the sport.
A good example of this is Cathy Gray, who I also met that weekend. Cathy has been involved with touch football for over 30 years and made history when she became the first female Life Member of Touch Football Australia, receiving the honour in 2012. Her involvement with touch football began when she began teaching her school students about the game over 30 years ago. Cathy in now Director of High Performance and as I spoke to her, I could genuinely see how passionate she was and how much she loved her sport – her involvement after 30 years speaks volumes about touch football and the inclusive community that it is.
Then there are the athletes. I spent plenty of time with the women’s team in camp and there isn’t much more to say other than I was truly privileged to spend time with these girls.
There are the sisters – Danielle and Shellie Davis who I first met at the National Touch League tournament. At that stage they were working hard so they could both be selected to represent Australia and there they were. There was Sammy Hopkin – the first ever Touch Football Australia representative to be named an NRL State of Mind ambassador. There was Mia Johnstone – the youngster in the group, just 17 years old and selected to represent her country and finally, there was Kimberley Sue See who, in between training drills, was studying for her upcoming university exams.
The juggle between university, working and playing elite sport is a reality for most of the touch football players chosen to represent their counties and creates a tremendous sense of respect between team mates. Touch only forms one part of what for most of these athletes are very busy lives. To see their genuine commitment, love and passion for their sports was a joy.
So where to next?
The teams leave this weekend for New Zealand. The captain of the women’s team is Lizzie Campbell. The captain of the men’s team is Nick Good. The captain of the mixed team is Cam Nicholls. You can hear my interviews with these three players here.
The common theme between the interviews was the pride that these three young athletes had as they were selected not only to represent their country, but to lead them as well.
I wish the teams the best of luck as they travel to New Zealand this weekend and I will be keeping you updated with their progress through the week.
I look forward to seeing our three captains lifting three different trophies and plenty more photos celebrating the tremendous talent of our Australian touch football representatives.
Love, Ladies who League xxx
P.S. This week we will be encouraging all of you to send your messages of support to the team – be sure to use the hashtags #transtasman2016, #oneteam and #teamaustralia to do this.
P.P.S. Lizzie Campbell, please don’t forget to pack your toothbrush!