Defence Touch broke through for its first championship at the elite National Touch League (NTL) competition at Coffs Harbour from March 8 to 11.
CAPTION: Flight Lieutenant David Murray splits the defence in a desperate dive for the line against ACT Raiders. Story by Squadron Leader Pete Croce.
The masters mixed team won a nail-biting final in the last 30 seconds of play to take home the NTL title after more than 20 years of ADF campaigning against Australia’s best touch football teams.
The tournament, which is the highlight of the Australian touch football calendar, attracted 138 teams across 17 divisions.
The masters mixed team remained undefeated in the tournament and earned high praise from coach Warrant Officer Ivan Petrovic for coping with the pressure of the 5-4 win against Victoria Storm in the final.
“The team has done an outstanding job to come together as a diverse team of male and female players of all ranks from all three services and all states,” Warrant Officer Petrovic said.
“There were no easy games at this level. They kept up their discipline and commitment and as a team grew stronger with each game. They have done themselves and the ADF proud.”
The final was a thrilling affair, with ADF Touch Association President Wing Commander Sheena Stapleton crossing the tryline on the half-time buzzer to lock the scores at 4-4 at the break.
The second half was an arm wrestle until Warrant Officer Class 2 Terence Kong broke the line in the final 30 seconds and picked up a surging Sergeant Nicole Petrovic, who made a crucial dive for the line.
CAPTION: Warrant Officer Class 2 Terrence Kong sizes up a tight defensive line ahead of scoring the winning try for Defence in the masters mixed final.
Warrant Officer Class 2 Kong was elated to be part of a team that broke through after a long history of ADF involvement at the tournament.
“I am very proud of how the team performed throughout the championship,” Warrant Officer Class 2 Kong said.
“Every member of the team improved each game and all played with a positive attitude and a determination to not let their teammates down. I would like to make a special mention to Private Fleur Tolman and Sergeant Darren Bedford, who both competed at their first NTL Championship and proved to be valuable members of the team.
“The grand final was a tough game. I know I was run off my feet. When I broke through the line in the final 30 seconds and saw Nicki in support, I knew we were in a good spot.
“Up until that moment, it had been a tough slog against a very good team. Our team played out of their skins at a very fast pace.”
Warrant Officer Class 2 Kong and Sergeant Petrovic were announced as players of the final.
ADF Touch Vice President Corporal Thomas Edgword said the tournament demonstrated the broad and inclusive nature of ADF Touch, with a men’s 30s team, referees and other high-performing players also representing the ADF.
“We sent two Defence teams away for the championships and the men’s 30s were in arguably the most competitive draw in the league against Australian-level players, and they worked hard to support each other as a team,” Corporal Edgword said.
He singled out two ADF referees, Corporal Sam Whiteside and Sergeant Patrick Moran, who officiated in the senior mixed semi-final and women’s 27 semi-final respectively.
“I also acknowledge two of our high-performing players, Leading Seaman Stephen Holmes and Private Drew Price, who represented the ADF in elite civilian teams, with Leading Seaman Holmes taking out a national title in his division and Private Price impressively coming in the top six men’s opens try-scorers,” he said.
The ADF Touch Association will now focus on building towards the upcoming ADF National Touch Championship at Gallipoli Barracks, Enoggera from October 14 to 20. This is open to all ADF personnel and provides the opportunity for selection in ADF domestic and international representative teams.