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Knights touch squad: the similar skills to rugby league

In their junior years, rugby league wasn't the only sport both nib Newcastle Knights Aidan Guerra and Kalyn Ponga loved to play! 

Touch football was a big part of their lives... Guerra played state touch and Ponga put on the green and gold. 

Most people wouldn't associate the links between touch football and rugby league, but the skills and techniques can be quite similar... and just like a few Knights players, it helped them in their journey to becoming a professional NRL player later in life. 

In a proud partnership between NRL Touch and a number of NRL clubs, the inaugural NRL Touch Premiership has kicked off in 2018. 

The newly formed Knights touch sides are gearing up for their debut in just over two weeks' time. 

Sixteen men and women will be part of the Knights representative sides and will play their first game before Round 16's clash against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs on Saturday, June 30. 

Touch to NRL: The pathway to elite

Ainsley Hughes was one of the local Novocastrians selected in the Knights women's touch squad and said she's proud to be putting on the red and blue for her home town. 

"For me personally I'm from Newcastle, so getting to play for my home Club is pretty cool," said Hughes. 

"I know a lot of the other girls come from country affiliates so being aligned to a regional club is also great as well. 

"It's a fantastic opportunity for the girls to really feel a different level of professionalism coming in to our game." 

Hughes, who plays in the middle, admits playing touch can definitely be a logical pathway into playing rugby league. 

"Heaps of NRL players have come through touch football, similarly with girls that play in the NRL, it was only a matter of time before the pathway came into the spotlight," she added. 

"Kalyn is probably the most widely publicised in terms of touch football skills... but certainly the passing in touch, the speed of it and the agility definitely are all skills that translate really well." 

And to play as the curtain raiser for the Knights v Bulldogs match at McDonald Jones Stadium, Hughes knows it will be a highlight both squads will relish in. 

"Super exciting for us, playing in front of a big stadium is going to be something new for the girls and guys, and it's something we'll all really treasure," Hughes smiled. 

The inaugural premiership, which is affiliated with six NRL teams, will consist of six rounds plus a final, and Queensland and NSW teams will compete against each other in separate pools, with winners progressing to the premiership final. 

Touch games will be broadcast nationally, as a mix of live and delayed broadcasts, with each game lasting 30 minutes.