Meet Andrew Beattie
I’ve been really fortunate to have played professional Rugby League and Rugby Union in three countries over a 14-year time span. I was able to play for my favourite club, the North Sydney Bears in Australia, be a member of the New South Wales Waratahs Rugby Union franchise and play for AS Carcassonne XIII in the French Elite competition. I am also one of a select group of foreign players to have been privileged to play for all three professional Cumbrian Rugby League teams, being Workington Town, Barrow and Whitehaven.How did you discover Touch?
I played Touch at school in Australia as part of PE lessons. I also played socially with my mates in Brisbane competitions for extra fitness and for fun. I hadn’t played any formal Touch since 1998 until taking it up again in 2015 with the Manchester Chargers team in England Touch leagues. July 2016 I made my international debut as a member of the England Men’s 30s team at the European Touch Championships in Jersey. Not a bad result after a 17 year hiatus from the sport! This was really big achievement for me and one I am extremely proud of.What skills do you need for Touch?
Touch isn’t Rugby League or Rugby Union. It is a game that has earned the right to be considered a stand-alone sport. The game has been marketed poorly in the past by players claiming to play touch when really they were just playing a 13 and 15-a-side game with no tackling. There are some cross over aspects that are the same, but people need to appreciate that you are NOT playing League or Union.
Coming from a Rugby League and Rugby Union background myself, I found that I already had the fundamental skills required to play. Catching, passing and ball handling skills are essentials. Speed, agility and reaction time are components of fitness that are advantageous for those looking to exploit their opponents more easily. You also need to have a cool head and make decisions fairly quickly. The biggest thing for me was learning to move a defender so they get in situations where they can’t stop you scoring. It’s about creating space and working the defence to where you want them to be – it’s almost like playing chess. With only six players on either team at one time it’s a lot harder than it seems.What is your current involvement in Touch?
As previously mentioned I play for a club in the England Touch national set up and I am a member of an England squad. I also have my own Cumbria based club, the West Cumbria Cyclones. We play socially during the week at Whitehaven Rugby Union where players can drop in and play when they are available. I try to allow people to play games to get used to it first and give some coaching points on how they can make best use of the skills they have. There is no need to have a team to come down and join us and we have had a number of local rugby players, netballers, tradesmen, office workers, teachers and many others drop in with friends to play games. I also do some coaching sessions with the Cumbria Lakers regional team for those wishing to play at higher levels.Where would you like to see Touch head in Cumbria?
Our club has worked to try and bring in more players to teach them the basics first so they can play well. Cumbria has such a massive pool of male and female Rugby players as well as mass participation in other sports and recreational activities. People would really enjoy Touch if they came down and tried it. We have entered in some tournaments and hope to enter in some more this year.
There are pockets of places that play Touch or variations of the game in Cumbria. We have reached out to try and establish links with them in order to increase participation and play in some cross club leagues which will take some time. I believe that people need to look at the bigger picture and share the resources they have to improve the game in the area rather than try to keep those insular pockets together. I’d really like to see a West Cumbria league with a Cumbria Touch Cup competition in the future. I’d also like to see our regional side do well at the England Touch Nationals again this year.Why do you like Touch?
It’s fun, friendly and keeps you fit. The social aspect is great to meet some new people and build some team working skills. It’s not boring and it’s also a way to use the skills I had in a different way. I can play in teams with people of any age, any gender and any ability and everyone is equal on the field. I can play games with and against my own family and if I want to push myself to higher levels of competition, including international level, I can do that. I can travel across the county, country, continent or across continents if I really wanted to for a game. The best thing is that it’s not just for me – it’s for ANYONE!