If there’s anyone who can improve your touch skills, it’s Phil Gyemore, Australian Men’s Open Head Coach. He also coaches the elite touch team the North Queensland Cowboys, who are competing in the NRL Touch Premiership Grand Final.
1. Firstly, focus on getting the ball down the other end of the field
“Beginners can make the mistake of trying to score off every play or touch. But depending on the part of the field your team is on when you’ve got the ball, the first two or three touches should be about giving yourself an opportunity to get to the attacking part of the field. Ruck the ball forward to get closer to the opposition’s tryline,” says Gyemore.
“Then when you’re in that other half of the field, that’s when you can look to explore some options that might involve throwing the ball around, showing some footwork and some more skill to try to attack and score.”
2. Look to initiate the touch when you have the ball
“Affecting the touch is something everyone should be doing when you have the ball. If you affect the touch, then you’re in more control. It’s on your terms, you’re being proactive rather than reactive and just waiting for someone to make the touch on you, which can then lead to stepping over the mark or an error, forcing a pass. Those things can happen because people are reacting rather than trying to control the game when they have the opportunity.”
3. Start moving back onside before a touch is made
“When on the defending team, some beginners have a problem with getting onside, getting back in line with the referee. So sometimes when a touch is made, lots of people are still around the roll ball. But what they should be doing, once it becomes very clear who is going to be making the touch – because it only takes one player to make the touch – the other five players should be getting back onside. It’s what we call ‘pre-touch’ at the elite level. People should be getting in good pre-touch position if they aren’t the ones who are going to be making the touch, to prepare for upcoming touches.”
4. Practice running backwards
“Running backwards is a skill in itself. A five-metre challenge is a good activity you can do with two people to improve your backwards running. One of you is the defender, the other is the attacker. Place the ball five metres away from the tryline. The attacker picks the ball up and the defender has to get back onside, running backwards really fast before they can make a touch, while the attacker tries to score,” he says.
5. Practice passing both sides
“Some people are more dominant on one side, in terms of their pass from right to left, which can be restrictive. Like all skills, it’s just a matter of practice, repetition. Doing it on a regular basis will increase your ability to pass on both sides. Same with long balls. Practice will improve your accuracy of pass, the speed of your pass and how far you can pass.”