When it comes to touch football, 24-year-old Marikki Watego is one to watch, a prodigy of the game since her early teens.
By age 15 she was already representing Queensland in the NTL. Nine years later, the talented athlete has been a star inclusion in the Australian Open Women’s team since 2012, along with current co-captaincy of the TFA Indigenous All-Stars team.
A product of Kingscliff, Gold Coast, Watego will this week represent the Titans team at the National Touch League titles, a team she’s represented since the inaugural Elite Eight series in 2011.
The Elite Eight series encompasses all of the best players in Australia in which eight teams make up the ‘best of the best’, and Watego says the Broncos will be the competition favourites this year.
“You can’t go past the Queensland Broncos (as favourites), after winning last year, they've got some dangerous players and they really gel well as a team so they’ll be a team to look out for,” Watego said.
“Our team has changed a lot since last year, we’ve got a great mix of youth and experience so it’s been great to get a few experienced players back like Clare Giarola and Talia Yarden. That, with the mix of young players like Ash Kearney and Paige Parker we’ve just got a really good mix and hopefully it’ll be enough to keep up steady during the tough matches.
“I’m really looking forward to the event, just with this new mix of players I think we have a lot to offer and we might even take a few teams by surprise so I’m really looking forward to it," Watego said.
“We have gained (Australian Women’s Open representative) Ash Quinlan so that’s a really good addition to our team. She’s definitely someone to look out for, always has been and probably always will be!”
“We always look forward to going into NTL and Elite Eight because it’s the biggest event of the year," she said.
Parker, as an Australian squad member, will be looking to put in a good performance as national selectors will trim squads of 20-30 into 16-player teams based on the performances during the tournament. Those picked will play in a Trans Tasman series in April.
2014’s player of the series Tamika Upton is playing for the Queensland Outlaws/Cowboys Elite Eight team for the third year running. The 19-year-old has also been part of the TFA Indigenous All Stars team in 2015 and 2016.
She says that having a host of young uns will be an advantage.
“I’m really excited for the event, it’s a young team and a very fresh team so it should be really good," she said.
“We have a few players (to watch), we have Kobe Nona, and the older players like Greta (Doherty) and Burko (Ashleigh Burke), but we’ve got a few young ones, Jessica Bourke is 15, she’ll have heaps of enthusiasm," Upton said.
The 2016 National Touch League gets underway March 9 at C.ex Coffs International Stadium.
The four-day tournament is the biggest event on the National Touch League calendar with 120 teams and 15 divisions competing in total.
The Women’s Elite Eight teams will play seven round games (one against each team) on the opening three days, before semi finals and grand finals on the Saturday.
The draw can be found here on the event website.
- Elite Eight
- Mixed Open
- Women’s T League (development division with 10 players under 20 and up to six 20+)
- Women’s 27s
- Women’s 35s
- Women’s 40s
- Senior Mixed
Elite Eight teams:
- Alliance (rest of Australia – SA/ACT/VIC/TAS/WA/NT)
- Queensland Broncos (formerly known as the Queensland Chiefs)
- Queensland Titans (were formerly known as the Queensland Stingrays)
- Queensland Cowboys (formerly known as the Queensland Country Outlaws)
- NSW Country Mavericks
- NSW Scorpions
- NSW Rebels
- NSW Mets