Touch Football Australia’s Victorian Branch has been awarded the Supporting Grassroots Sport Grant, worth $40,000 over two years from the Victorian State Government.The grant will benefit the development of Touch Football in Victorian regional areas. $1.5 million has been allocated by the Victorian Government from the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games Budget for regional and rural sport. TFA Victoria will use the funds from its grant to employ a part-time regional Game Development Officer to manage a specific area. The new position will be responsible for the development of Touch Football in the region through schools, current affiliates, establishing new affiliates, encouraging the development of referees and coaches, and maintaining facilities. TFAVictoria State Branch Manager David Brady said two regions are currently being considered. “Both have good potential for growth for two years. We’re just finalising partnership arrangements,” Mr. Brady said.Game Development Officer Carly Goodrich played a pivotal role in securing the grant.Ms. Goodrich believes that the grant will be of great benefit to Touch Football throughout regional Victoria and outer-metropolitan Melbourne. “It will be a big support because at the moment we’ve got a lot of volunteers doing work in that location. The volunteers will now be able to access resources from the State Branch office to assist them,” she said. The new TFA Victoria Regional Game Development Officer will be based in the specified area and employed locally, which will support the community. The level of service to the developing regions of the State is sure to be improved by the location of the GDO in the rural locality.“If our staff live in metropolitan Melbourne, it is difficult to get to a country affiliate so we might go out there only three or four times a year. But if we’ve got someone centred there in that area for the whole time then we would expect to get a lot of growth participant wise,” Goodrich said. The opportunity for the promotion of Touch Football to country areas is one of the key reasons that the grant was awarded.Sport and Recreation Victoria Project Officer Tom Forsell said the more regional participation, the better. “Currently Touch Football is predominantly Melbourne-based but having someone that can go and deliver sessions in the country, whether it’s school-based stuff or club-school links, will really improve the ability of the organisation to start getting more country kids playing. All the projects that we fund are looking at increasing the participation rate and giving people more of a choice,” Forsell said.TFA Victoria has been extremely proactive in seeking funding in numerous areas, and Branch Manager David Brady is confident that two more key project grants will be awarded soon.“With the extra funding from the State Government, and with several other grants in the pipeline, we will be in a position to access extra staffing support from the parent body. What we’re trying to do is to pool our resources in the right direction. We have experienced quite a substantial growth, as evidenced by our Schools Championships, and the number of affiliates that come on board. We’ve had two new affiliates in the last financial year, which is fantastic. We have had a lot of new enquiries about the sport and the game so we are on our way to establishing our niche in the Victorian sporting landscape for the future,” Brady said.The first grant Touch Victoria is awaiting notification on is a Participation In Community Sport and Active Recreation (PICSAR), State and Regional grant, funded by VicHealth. VicHealth’s charter is to ‘build opportunities for people to be informed, learn new skills, have greater access to activities that promote good health, and share healthier environments’.The sport of Touch Football seems a perfect fit for this criteria.The second grant is part of the Victorian Government’s Future Directions Project, which is also funded through the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games Budget. These two grants would help TFA Victoria fund Touch Football in the other identified regional area as well as continue the expansion of the sport in metropolitan Melbourne. Nick Mooney, TFA Victoria Operations Manager is in the process of formalising the strategic and development plans to drive the game forward amongst juniors and in new affiliates in Victoria. The grants are a sign of the increasing recognition of Touch Football as a sport of choice for Victorians.Australian football is still the dominant code in Australia’s south east corner, with 300,000 Victorians currently playing the game, however Touch Football is promoted as a complement to the game, rather than a competition. Touch Football is predominantly a summer sport in Victoria and affiliates are establishing strong links with Australian football clubs. “We find that it’s a good cross-training sport for a lot of football players to keep fit in summer,” David Brady said. With the increased support from the Government and continued partnerships with other sports, Touch Football in Victoria is going from strength to strength.