The Yass Valley Touch Football Knockout will celebrate its 25th Anniversary this weekend at Walker Park, with 102 teams participating. There are 46 mixed teams, 34 men’s teams and 22 women’s teams doing battle for the $12,000 prize money on offer.
Last year a record 104 teams participated in the Knockout and 60 of those teams are back to enjoy the action which will commence at 8am on both days.
There are two teams from Adelaide, nine teams from Melbourne, 11 teams from Canberra, 48 teams from Sydney and two teams from the Central Coast competing. There are also teams from Wodonga, Albury, Wagga Wagga, Leeton, Griffith, Dubbo, Orange, Cowra, Albion Park, Kiama, Nowra, Milton, Batemans Bay, Mogo, Narooma, Goulburn and the Defence Forces.
Yass will be represented by Kiss My Pass; Look But Can’t Touch; Hot Hand; Smokin’ Darts and Breakin’ Harts and Smokin’ Joints and Scorin’ Points.
Smokin’ Joints and Scorin’ Points will be one of the teams to beet in the men’s division, with Scott Naughton, Chris Rawlinson, Ben Absolum and Alyd Owen in the line-up.
Slippery Eels Parramatta and Te Whanau Manly have teams in all grades and will be among the teams to beat in each division.
Sydney Rebels will start favourites to take out the mixed division and they will be led by Peter Walters, arguably the best touch player to come out of New Zealand.
The Goulburn Wolf Pack, led by the Karas’ and the Aubusson’s, will be one of the teams to beat in the mixed division, along with the Radelaide Mixers.
Brett Cox the son of former St George forward Barry Cox will play for the Milton Frogs in the mixed division. Brett played in the last Batemans Bay team to win the Group Seven rugby league competition when coached by Mark Bell.
The Jets teams from Bankstown and Strip Pig from Adelaide will be teams to watch in the men’s division while the Melbourne City Lions, Dubbo Toucharoos, Bullets and the Thunderbabes from Albury are teams who could do well in the Women’s division.
There are five teams from the University of Melbourne. TouchUM will perform strongly and the Narooma Hasbeens are back and led by Nigel Constable.
ACT Touch will be represented by eight teams: Men’s 20s, Women’s 20s, Women’s 35s, Women’s 40s, Men’s 30s, Men’s 40s, Men’s 45s and Mixed who are preparing for the National Touch League Championships at Coffs Harbour in March.
The Southern Suns will be represented by the Senior Mixed and Men’s 30s teams.
Doug Witt is coaching the ACT Men’s 45s team while wife Sally is playing for the ACT Women’s 40s team.
The Suns Senior Mixed team line-up includes Shane Turton, Steve Sopher, Darren Reynoldson, Kevin Salmon, Warren Potts and Melissa Ellis while the Men’s 30s called the Long Shots have Charlie Nye lining up for them.
Dave Turner will lead the Bears Old Boys into action in the men’s division and Krystal Hartley, daughter of former Yass resident Alan Hartley, will play for the Albion Park Eagles.
The Defence Forces will be represented by X-Factor, a Men’s 40s combination who are preparing for the National Touch League Championships.
Each team will play three games on Saturday before the teams are graded for Sunday’s Knockout event.
The Yass Touch Knockout commenced in 1989, with 29 teams competing. For the last decade 80-plus teams have participated each year, and then last year the record was smashed, with 104 teams competing
The Yass Knockout is the largest of its kind in Australasia and is regarded as a tournament that produces a high standard of touch, as well as being a great social event.
Big name sportsmen
Current and former rugby league stars like PJ Marsh (Parramatta, Broncos and New Zealand Warriors), David Hatch (Cronulla), Ian Russell (Illawarra Steelers), Joe Williams, Eric Ferguson (South Sydney), Nick Kouparitsas (Sydney Roosters), Mark Bell and Jamie Soward (St George) and former NSW Waratahs’ fly-half Daniel Halangahu, have played in the Knockout over the years.
The Leeton Zonks, who played in the Knockout for a decade in the 90s, are known as one of the great social teams to have competed.
The Zonks were a team formed around ex-students from the Leeton High School and were led into battle by the likes of Bruce Washington, Greg Reberger and ex-Sydney rugby league players Chris Houghton (Parramatta) and Larry Kelly (North Sydney). All the players had to meet at the Leeton Post Office at 6am on Saturday morning of the Knockout to travel by bus to Yass. They had to wear their famous white and black uniform which included the “Z” cap for the whole weekend, and were only allowed to bring a tooth brush and toothpaste to Yass.
Other legendary teams were the Culburra Legends, Spunky Love Machine Young, Bowral Boys, Milky Lickers Umina, Nye Bros Mogo, Central Thoroughbreds Cootamundra, Hookies Heroes Temora, Tequila Slammers Mittagong, Albury Mojo, Redbacks Yass, Coastal Tyres Central Coast, Rip ‘Em Out’ Gosford.
Wollongong Cellars, Stefan’s Kebabs Wollongong, City of Orange, Fabric Warehouse Canberra, Melbourne Thunder, Alacrity Brisbane, Te Whanau Manly, Shark Attack Cronulla, St George, Parramatta, Sydney University, UTS Lizards, XBlades, Chosen Few, Good Things, Cookie Monsters, Mr Walker, Suns of Beaches, SR 2002 and the Ol’ 55s led by former Jerrawa schoolboy Noel ‘Condor’ Donoghue.
The Ol 55’s are back playing in the men’s division with Noel Donohoe in his late 60s playing on the wing.
Kel O’Rourke the legendary Canberra Greyhounds race caller will be the voice at this year’s Knockout, letting everyone knows what’s going on.
Michael McGrath from Wollongong and Peter Millington from Wagga Wagga will be the referee’s co-ordinator for the tournament and will be joined by Brian and Val Kidd from Batemans Bay, who have a wealth of experience in this role.
Brian is a Life Member of the NSW Touch Association for his contribution to the sport as a referee and administrator.
Nick Altin a level six referee, and a long time supporter of the Knockout, is back again with the Griffith referees while eight Liverpool referees headed by Victor Baptiste will be in attendance.
Gary Brickell another level six referee from Wollongong makes a welcome return, while James Steinberg, Clint Jory, Paul Baker and Les Croft will be among the Canberra contingent.
Mark Jones is coming over from Adelaide to referee and Cliff Winnett will head up the Melbourne referees, which includes Glencarlo Leung.
Karen Davies from the Defence Forces is a level six referee who will attend along with Cathy Goodlock of Orange.
Kevin Waters from Albion Park is another referee coming back while Adam Cooper is a new face from Milton along with Ryan Withers from Goulburn.
Robert McKenchie is coming from Dubbo to referee, while Matt Darmody and Grant Hanrahan will be two of the local referees officiating this weekend.
Souvenir shirts in 18 different colour combinations and stubby holders with the names of the teams participating in the Knockout will be on sale at the administration tent.
The Yass business community has been great supporters of the Knockout through sponsorship, which has allowed $12,000 prize money for the event.
Thanks to the Yass Valley Development Corporation and Yass Soldiers Club for being the major sponsors of the Knockout. Thanks also to the Australian Hotel-Motel, Royal Hotel, Yass Golf Club, Cafe Dolcetto, Northside Takeaway, Hamilton Hume Motor Inn; Yass Motel, Hi Way Motor Inn, DFC Solicitors, Firths Furnishings, Yass Earthmovers, Dairy Farmers, Yass Valley Hire, Darrane Pty Ltd and the Bendigo Bank at Boorowa.
The profits from the Knockout have been used to keep the registration fees for the local competitions low, support local players to play at a higher level and make improvements to the facilities at Walker Park.