The New South Wales Touch Association’s (NSWTA) 32nd Annual Vawdon Cup is set to commence at the Bankstown and Tempe venues this Friday 20 July 2007.At a time when the NSWTA celebrates its 35th Anniversary, and hosts a State Conference for affiliates and the “Blues Dinner” to recognise outstanding statewide achievement and service to the sport at all levels, it is only fitting that the prestigious tournament commences for 2007 on such an important weekend. Friday afternoon around 3.00 pm players from all over Sydney will start getting edgy, they’ll go over game plans in their heads, eat a small pre-game meal (that is if the butterflies in their stomach haven’t taken up too much space,) they’ll visualize making the touch that really matters, or scoring the touchdown that really counts… and most importantly, not mistiming the celebratory “Hi-five”, and getting nothing but air.I believe it’s called a “Billy” after a certain Australian Women’s Open Captain who suffered this unfortunate fate several years ago…Players will also use their Friday afternoon wisely by thinking up a good sledge to throw at Garry Sonda; you’re not playing him tonight, but if you jog past on the warm-up and he’s defending the line you’ll give the new material a run, it’s six months since he got you at the State Cup, so yeah, you’ll go with it …You try it out at home on the dog first, it doesn’t fly, so you concede that you “really do have nothing” and “GS7” is still the Sultan of Sledge…Then there’s the psychological preparation – left sock on before right, (everyone knows that’s the secret to having a good game).Players will calmly dust off the boots, rug up for the expectant winter chill, pack the bananas, red frogs, and PowerAde in the kit bag, and walk out the door hoping against hope that the traffic will be kind to them on the way to “The Show”… You don’t get far, you remember you’ve forgotten your playing shirt and have to go back inside to retrieve your uniform.You then proceed to turn the house upside down for the next 30 minutes trying to locate the missing shirt…It’s all part of opening night preparations for players in Sydney’s premier affiliate based Touch Football competition.Elite representatives in NSW have had a long lay off from higher-level Touch Football with the National Touch League in March their last big foray into the competitive cauldron.For some elite players, their last serious game of Touch Football was at the 2007 World Cup in January, and for others it was further back to the State Cup in December 2006…. no wonder you can’t find your playing shirt…The Vawdon Cup is named in honour of Ray Vawdon, one of Touch Football’s founding members in Australia. The competition caters for Men’s, Women’s, and Mixed grades across 10 divisions including Premier, Division 1 and 2, Masters and Seniors and is played over ten weeks plus a finals series across five key Sydney venues; Parramatta, Bankstown, Tempe, Penrith and Blacktown. New South Wales Touch Association Operations Manager Rob Summers said the weekly-based challenge of the Vawdon Cup provided participants with a level of competition unsurpassed at affiliate level.As opposed to knockout competitions, the Vawdon Cup’s format tests teams over an extended period of time. Summers said the experience and skills that players gained through the competition was invaluable. “It’s probably one of the best groundings for players to improve on a week-to-week basis. They basically start training six or eight weeks out from the competition. It’s unlike a knockout or a State Cup where they do the same but it’s all over and done with within a week. Their performances have to be much better; the players have to be more on their game than they would in a knockout competition. Basically we’re looking at testing the players’ mettle against each other,” Summers said. The Vawdon Cup has a reputation for having fierce competition throughout the divisions. 2007 will be no different. Friday night’s action in the Premier Division in Men’s and Women’s Open is sure to produce some fantastic clashes as players look to get their team’s 2007 season off to a flyer.At Bankstown in the 7.00pm clash in the Premier League’s Men’s division, the Parramatta Eels will take on last year’s surprise packets Easts Roosters.2007 Australian Men’s Open World Cup star Jamie Stowe, and the talented Jai and Troy Malcolm will spearhead the Eels campaign in ’07, and the addition of Dean “Pumper” Wilbow is sure to give the Eels more potency on the scoreline.Easts will look to the likes of Christian Frost and Chris Johnson, and Jarrat Wood to lead the way in 2007.Last year’s Premier Division Men’s Grand finalists Canterbury Bulldogs get their campaign underway when they take on the Manly Sea Eagles at 7.50pm at Tempe.The star studded Doggies line-up features 2007 Australian World Cup Open representatives Garry Sonda, Joel Willoughby, and Steve Roberts who are sure to provide the framework for the Canterbury combination’s tilt at this year’s title.Manly, who are in a rebuilding phase, will lean on the experience of Jamie Chan and a host of Scorpions National Touch League representatives to lead their charge.Defending Premiers the Penrith Panthers get their title defence underway with an intriguing clash with competition newcomers the Hornsby Lions at Bankstown at 8.40pm.The Panthers have lost 2006 Captain Jason Yee to the Western Suburbs Magpies, but have retained their core of young guns who will be hell bent on going back to back in 2007.Under the astute coaching of David Collins, the Panthers will look to the three Springfield brothers Adam, Dean, and new boy Daniel to headline the campaign, with the experience of Chris Benfield and Scotty Danswan sure to be an invaluable asset to the Panthers hopes of back-to-back titles. Collins was ecstatic with his team’s epic 8-7 Drop-off victory in the 2006 Vawdon Cup Grand Final against Canterbury and believes he has a team capable of pressing for the title again.He said winning the title had made his players more confident, but he expected tougher competition again this year.“It seems to get stronger every year. Any one of the eight teams could beat anybody on any given night, which makes it really interesting each week. It will be tough to win. The best thing about the Vawdon Cup is the strength of the competition week in week out as well as being with your closest mates every Friday night and trying to achieve a common goal, ” Collins said.Hornsby have an equally impressive Youth driven line-up, with the fleet footed Kennedy brothers John and Maurice, and the talented Dylan Hennessey providing the backbone to a team that is sure to trouble a lot of outfits and play an exciting brand of Touch Football in 2007.The gifted Dave Roberts provides the impetus and knockout punch for the Hornsby team and will be a potent weapon when most needed for the dangerous combination.In the late game in the Premier Division, 2006 State Cup champions, the Western Suburbs Magpies, will get their Vawdon Cup campaign underway when they square off against the Cronulla Sharks at Tempe at 9.30pm.The Magpies welcome Jason Yee into the fold, and the likes of 2007 Australian World Cup players Jason Stanton, Daniel Rushworth, Scott Mitchell, and Anthony Ziade give the Wests line-up an imposing “World 14” look across the park.Cronulla, led by 2007 Australian World Cup Mixed Open stars Brad “BJ” Holden and Matt Tope will be looking to get out of cellar dweller city in season 2007.Australian Men’s Open Coach Tony Trad, the former long time mentor of Wests, and in his second season in charge of Cronulla, will do his utmost to devise a game plan to counter the slick Western Suburbs combination on Friday night.In the Women’s Premier League, Manly and Canterbury get the season underway when they clash at Tempe at 7.00pm.Last year’s Grand finalists the Canterbury Bulldogs ooze class and skill across the board with the star-studded line-up featuring 2007 Australian Open World Cup stars sisters Clare and Louise “Squeeze” Winchester, Belinda Gretch, and the tireless Kelly Woods, who also has the best head snap in the business.Manly have a core of solid soldiers and a number of players of New Zealand origin who are capable of causing headaches to teams who underestimate them. The marquee clash on Friday night however, will be Premiers Easts Roosters against newcomers to the Premier League division, the Woolongong Devils.Easts, who have been the benchmark of the competition for many years, will again look to their stable of National World Cup Open representatives to lead the way in 2007. Easts have retained the majority of their premiership winning team from 2006 and will be looking to build into the season and put their well-heeled combinations together to impose themselves on the competition. Mercurial wonder twins Amanda and Kristy Judd, the inspirational Melissa Pitfield, Australian Mixed Open players Selene Thornton and Stephanie Sorensen, and the evergreen Giselle Tirado all offer guidance and guile to the champion outfit who will want to continue their impressive domination of the Vawdon Cup.The Wollongong Devils won the Division 1 Women’s in 2006 and their host of talented National Youth stars have made the quantum leap to Premier League to test themselves against the best.The three musketeers Nicole “Sero” Beck, Ash Dobbins, and Amanda Skwarko will lead the charge of the young brigade, with impressive National Youth squad members Stephanie Jackson and Biannca Mounsey also looking forward to the challenge of testing their games in the big time.Western Suburbs Magpies take on the Cronulla Sharks at Tempe in the 8.40pm timeslot.Led by Australian Women’s Open World Cup star Bo de la Cruz, the Wests combination will be looking to get the season off to a winning start against a young Cronulla combination.Australian Women’s Open player Dom Barlow, Jess Howe, and Jo Nelson will be the guiding lights for Cronulla, whilst de le Cruz, has young guns Tina and Tara Mohi in the ranks to bolster the Magpies aspirations.In the late game at Bankstown at 9.30pm, Penrith Panthers take on the Central Coast Dolphins, in what shapes as a close contest.Central Coast turned in a solid season in 2006 finishing fifth, and will be looking to the likes of their Australian Mixed Open squad member Karina Castle, and former Youth World Cup National player Kristy Jenkins, to lift them up the competition standings in 2007.Penrith are in a rebuilding phase and have a line-up that features a plethora of Mets 20s Women’s players who will be striving to build and grow as a team during the season.Action also commences in Division 1 and Division 2 Men’s, Women’s, and Mixed, as well as Seniors and Masters Mens grades on Friday night.To all competitors in the 2007 Vawdon Cup, best of luck for a rewarding season.And if you can’t find your playing shirt on Friday afternoon after searching for it for five solid seconds, ask your Mum, that’ll ensure you at least get to the game on time…. And remember, left sock before right sock…Touch Football Australia will feature regular weekly wraps with all the news and views from the New South Wales Touch Association’s Vawdon Cup in 2007.