Singapore focussed on 2024 Touch World Cup and grassroots development

May 30, 2023 @ 5:00 UTC

Singapore's preparations for the 2024 Touch World Cup in Nottingham are underway. The Singapore Girls' 18s team impressed at the Asia Pacific Youth Touch Cup in Brisbane, amid the revival of international youth competition. Learn about their aspirations, challenges, and plans for regional and global tournaments.

Singapore has commenced its preparations for the 2024 Touch World Cup in Nottingham next July by dedicating attention to their Girl's 18s team. 

Led by Head Coach Jazreel Tan and Assistant Coach Terence Toh, the Singapore Girls have taken part in the first-ever Asia Pacific Youth Touch Cup (APYTC). The tournament was hosted at Whites Hill Reserve in Brisbane, Queensland.

Twenty-five teams representing ten nations competed across under 18 and under 20s mixed, girls’ and boys’ divisions, in what was a colourful showcase of emerging talent. 

Chris Hallewell, the President of Touch Singapore, expressed his enthusiasm for taking the junior players to APYTC as it provided an excellent opportunity to enhance their skills and knowledge. The intense environment served as a pressure cooker, pushing them to compete against some of the world's finest youth players from Australia and New Zealand. Notably, Singapore's team achieved a remarkable feat by holding Cook Island to a thrilling 4-4 draw during a round-robin match.

Bill McCormack, the Manager of the Singapore 18s team, commented on the match against Cook Islands, describing it as a closely contested game. He emphasized that such competitive encounters were central to his team’s participation in the tournament. “It was a close game and Singapore was able to compete. For us that is what it's all about being at this tournament.”

Reflecting on the APYTC experience, Bill also acknowledged the athleticism, skills, and teamwork displayed by the Australian girls' team. “The Australian girls’ athleticism was an eye-opener, the technical skills, the teamwork. Very impressive.”

Chris Hallewell concurred emphasizing the importance of providing exposure to the highest level for Singapore’s players. 

“Whenever an opportunity arises to come to Australia, we eagerly seize it, whether it be participating in all school championships, state cups, or international tournaments like the Asia Pacific Youth Touch Cup.”

As a testament to their commitment, Singapore sent teams to the Queensland All Schools event held on the Gold Coast in 2022.

Expanding participation and getting back on the park

Chris Hallewell highlighted the importance of developing the sport from a grassroots level.  

“While Singapore is one of the more established nations in Asia, we are still quite nascent in our development. Don’t forget Touch Singapore in its current guise has only been around since 2017.”

“Then we had the break for COVID, where Singapore was really badly affected as it was locked down for a very long time. 

“So now it’s about rebuilding our Touch community, getting people back on the field, getting the ball in the hand again, and looking at ways that we can reignite the game at the grassroots level.

“This means gaining access to more schools and more importantly to fields, which is the biggest challenge in Singapore.”

The field situation in Singapore has been further complicated by the government's decision to redevelop the fields where touch is played. Consequently, the search for a new venue to host competitions has become a priority.

Currently, Touch Singapore organizes two annual league seasons, a summer league and a winter league. Chris Hallewell explained, "All divisions compete in those leagues which creates a real festival of Touch every weekend, and we also run a variety of weekend competitions. We recently ran a mixed carnival, and we host the Singapore International Touch Knockout in June, which attracts teams from all over Asia and the Pacific."

The Singapore International Touch Knockout tournament is particularly noteworthy as it draws teams from various regions, including Hong Kong, Taipei, Malaysia, China, and even Australia and New Zealand. This highlights the international appeal of the event and the participation of diverse teams.

Touch Singapore also has a history of sending teams to tournaments in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Additionally, they regularly participate in tournaments held in Perth, Australia. 

Planning ahead for the World Cup

As the 2024 World Cup approaches, Chris Hallewell said the goal of Singapore is to be competitive in the tournament. Considering that the event will be held in the UK, he explained, "We won't be overextending ourselves in terms of the numbers of teams we'll be sending. We want to be sending teams that we believe will be competitive."

Chris highlighted the achievements of the Women's Opens team, mentioning their previous bronze medal achievements and semi-final appearance against Australia in Malaysia, and expressed the desire to replicate that performance in the UK next year.

Furthermore, he noted the competitiveness of the Men's 30s, 40s and 50’s teams. The 50s also won a bronze in Malaysia.  “These teams will utilize the Asian Touch Cup, where Japan plays a significant role, as a steppingstone to prepare ourselves for the World Cup in Nottingham.”

Touch Singapore is actively collaborating with Philippines Touch (TAP), to organize test matches that will enhance their preparations. The southeast Asian city-state aims to field four teams in the upcoming Asian Touch Cup and has set their sights on sending six teams to the World Cup in Nottingham. 

Bill McCormack further contributed by mentioning past performances in Touch World Cups. He stated, "At the other end of the spectrum, in the last Youth World Cup, we made the bronze medal match in three categories against South Africa. This indicates that Singapore has a history of performing well in multiple Touch World Cups.”

Moreover, Bill expressed optimism about the growth of the sport, particularly at the underage levels. He added, "And I would say it is growing in terms of numbers at the underage levels. It’s pretty well established in the universities and the polys and growing nicely at secondary school level." 

The growing popularity of Touch and its strong presence in universities and polytechnics indicate a promising future for the sport in Singapore. With plans to leave a significant mark at upcoming international tournaments in the next 18 months, the trajectory of Touch in Singapore looks incredibly positive.

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