This article was written in May 1997 as part of the BCTA's 10th Anniversary celebrations.
The Brisbane Churches Touch Association was founded by its inaugural President, Barry Thornton, in early 1987. Barry was a member of the successful Sunnybank Church of Christ cricket team which played in the Brisbane Churches Cricket Competition over Summer, and was keen to establish a Winter competition to maintain fellowship and outreach for Churches in Brisbane in a sporting context. The first competition commenced on Saturday, 23 May 1987 at MacGregor State High School with six mixed teams: two from Sunnybank COC and others from Redlands, Acacia Ridge, MacGregor along with a combined Annerley/Kenmore team. The competition was played largely under social rules, with mixed teams fielding five male and two female players under a relaxed touch-and-pass rule, and in bare feet!
The competition remained small and fairly informal for the first three seasons, until a substantial growth spurt in 1989/90. We ran our first Summer competition on Monday nights over the 1989/90, and it was also the first men's competition. The following Winter mixed season saw an expansion to 10 teams competing in A and B grade. Our budget had grown from $400 for the first season to over $25 000 per year. The Association had a full management structure, with a President, Chaplain, Secretary, Treasurer and Referees' Co-ordinator, and a supportive Management Committee. We also became incorporated, and played two representative matches against the Ipswich Churches competition side.
The early seasons were dominated by sides from the Sunnybank COC. However, the continuing expansion through 1991 and 1992 saw us move permanently to Men's and Mixed competitions all year round, and also introduce a Ladies competition. The large influx of players and teams led to much bigger and more competitive premierships, and the emergence of new forces such as Regina Caeli, Gateway Baptist, St Barts, Greenslopes Baptist and St Bernard's.
The Association has maintained those levels of participation for over five years now, with our capacity limited only by ground availability. Each season is either nearly of fully subscribed, our budget is almost $30 000, and we generally run approximately 350 matches per year. New teams and Churches continue to be introduced, and those that remain frequently switch players and move between Men's and Mixed competitions. Team fees have been kept at a very affordable level, and the playing facilities at our ninth and hopefully final home at Tennyson are second to none. The Association has never felt its goals would be furthered by affiliation with local or regional Touch bodies. This has helped keep fees down, but has not stopped a significant number of our players from achieving success in other touch competitions and at representative level. We are also able to maintain a level of refereeing which is at least as good as other comparable associations in the Brisbane area.
One satisfying note is the continued membership of so many players, teams and Churches over that long 10 year period or large parts of it. The fact that so many people come back year after year is most gratifying, and an indication that the Association is achieving its goals and satisfying its members' needs.
Following the recent Annual General Meeting, Barry Thornton was honored with our first Life Membership. There are many other people who have contributed greatly to the Association's health and well-being over the past 10 years. At the risk of omitting someone, the following persons in particular are worth singling out: Glen Anderson, Gary Epps, Wendy Dickfos, John MacRae and Selwyn Dickfos. All have provided sterling service, and will no doubt be rewarded in part with Life Membership in the future.
Apart from the summaries of each individual season (complete barring a few details which would be well received if anyone has a long enough memory), there are a number of summary pages which faithfully reflect our enormous growth. The Sunnybank COC's record of 11 premierships looks safe for a few years only as the Gateway Baptist and St Barts teams continue to rack up titles.
The Mixed division has been the mainstay of the BCTA, with premierships being run in all but one of our 18 seasons to date. Sides from the Sunnybank COC dominated in the early years, but competitions these days are much more closely fought. Teams such as Rapid Fire, Crushers and Fore Frontiers have added depth which was lacking in earlier seasons. The mixed division continues to be the Association's success story, with a record 18 teams competing in the recent 1996/97 Summer season. Continued growth could lead to the introduction of a C grade in the near future.
The initial Men's competition was held in 1989/90. This was also our first summer season, and due to the cricket commitment of many players on Saturdays, meant that matches were played under lights for the first time at another new venue- Brittain Park at Coopers Plains. While never quite approaching the popularity of the mixed competition, the men's division has run both an A and B Grade premierships in just about every season every since, and reached a high of 12 teams several times, though numbers have been slightly down over the past couple of seasons. The A Grade competition has been dominated by the St Bernard's Bandits and Regina Caeli/St Fabian's teams, while the B Grade has been so open that 10 different sides have each won it on one occasion.
We have run four Ladies competitions to date, each Winter from 1992 to 1995. The competition could never quite become established, with no more than five teams competing in any one season. The high turnover of players meant that no team has dominated this division. Unfortunately, the limited ground capacity and continued growth of the mixed competition make the revival of the Ladies Competition unlikely in the near future.
Overall, 322 teams have competed in a mammoth 2,416 individual matches over 18 seasons, and 58 individual premierships have been awarded. When the costs associated with player insurance, referees and ground hire are taken into account, the average per game is about $60. At $500 for an average 18 week season, the competition is the cheapest around. Combined with an excellent playing venue and a good refereeing standard, it really does represent value for money.
The Association has a number of goals for the immediate future. The positions of Chaplain and President have remained vacant for some time now, and are in need of filling. We appear to have found a permanent home at Tennyson, and expansion to competitions on two nights each week is not out of the question. Whatever course we follow, it is important that we do not compromise our fundamental goals of providing a competitive Christian sporting forum providing fellowship for Christians and non-Christians alike.
The growth, progress and stability of the Association over these 10 years has been quite staggering, and while we are now in a phase of consolidation rather than continued expansion, with everyone's support it is realistic to expect the next 10 years will be just as successful.