Tasmania, one of Touch Football’s growth States, will be out to impress at the 18 Years National Championships in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, from 17 – 20 September, 2007. Tasmania’s best young players have been plucked from around the State to form the Boys and Girls teams that will contest the premier event on the National junior calendar. The teams will be mentored by two of the most experienced coaches in Tasmania, John Dowling (Boys) and Deb Button (Girls). Mr. Dowling, who has coached at representative level for 12 years, and socially for more than 20, has been in charge of the Tasmanian 18 Years Boys team for the past four years.He said he was satisfied with the team that has been picked, but said the key to a successful campaign was not to be overconfident. “You’re goals have to be realistic, and we should realistically be aiming to play on the Saturday, which is finals day,” Dowling said. In 2004, Dowling’s first year in charge, Tasmania defeated Victoria and South Australia.“That was a magnificent result for us because everyone expected us to finish at the bottom of the table,” Dowling said.Unfortunately the team couldn’t repeat the positive result, finishing near the bottom in 2005. Last year Tasmania drew with the Gold Coast and defeated the Crusaders and Northern Territory.Dowling was looking to 2007 for better results from his charges.“Our main goal is to play on finals day because in 2005 we didn’t win a game and we actually finished up on the Friday, which wasn’t pleasant.” Mr. Dowling said.The standard of Touch Football in Australia’s island state has improved markedly over the last five years.This is largely due to the introduction of a development program from under-12s to opens, as well as an increase in the amount of people qualified in technical areas of the game.The three major affiliates, the Southern, Devonport, and the Launceston Touch Associations, have provided all players in both the selected sides. Training sessions will rotate between the affiliates to offset the tyranny of distance and minimize the costs of travelling for all. Some players will have to travel as far as 300km to attend some of the sessions. The Girls’ first training camp will be this weekend 16 – 17 June, with the Boys meeting the following weekend. “I’ve got some parameters that I would like the team to achieve. I’ve got a vision for the team as to what I expect, and I’ll actually give the players, in partnership with myself and the other officials, some team goals,” Mr. Dowling said. Dowling will also be constructing individual training programs for each of his players. One of the main objectives of the team will be to gain respect. “We certainly want to finish as high as we possibly can. We’re not going to make the top four or five, that’s an unrealistic expectation, but I’d be confident that we could make the playoffs for the plate or shield finals. I want the opposition to think of us as being highly skilled and disciplined. We’ll play with a high level of intensity and meet all the challenges thrown at us and hopefully earn the respect of our opponents,” he said. The Boys’ side will feature four players that played in the National Touch League Under-20s division in 2006. There will also be a number of experienced players that have progressed from the Under-15 ranks. One of the strike weapons for the Tasmanian Boys team will be newcomer Trent Gutteridge, who has only been playing Touch Football for about 18 months but has plenty of potential. “He’s still learning the game, but he’s exceptionally quick. We’ll be looking to develop him further through our training program,” Dowling said. The girls will be similarly strong. Last year the team aimed to finish in the top 15, and achieved its goal. This year they will be trying to improve on the result.One of the stars of the girls’ team will be 2006 TFA National 18 Years Youth Development Squad member Emily Hudson. This year’s event will be the bubbly Hudson’s third tournament. In 2005, aged 15 and in just her first year of Touch Football, Hudson participated in her first Under-18 National Championships. She, along with current National Youth training squad member Emma Haines impressed all and sundry who attended the Inaugural National Youth Development Training Camp at Runaway Bay on the Gold Coast in 2006.The two “Tassie devils” competed well with their more experienced squad mates from NSW and Queensland, and showed great talent and determination at the Youth Camp to stamp themselves as players of the future. This year Emily is looking forward to taking on more of a leadership role. She said she was excited about the upcoming tournament. “For me the best thing will be seeing the other talent, especially in the NSW and QLD teams. You learn heaps from playing against quality players. For the team it will definitely be about progression for the next two years because we’ve got a pretty young team this year,” Hudson said. Hudson believed the Tasmanian side was definitely on the improve. “We’re a very quick side this year. Even though we’re a young group, we’ve all been playing for five or six years, so we know the game pretty well.” Both the boys and girls’ teams will be busy in preparation for September. When the 18 Years National Championships role around, keep an eye out for the Tasmanian teams and let’s hope they get their wish and extend their tournament into Finals day.