Touch: Recognition for officials

Dunedin touch officials (from left) Rahul Das, Toni Wall and Damian Burden look forward to filling roles with national teams. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Dunedin touch officials (from left) Rahul Das, Toni Wall and Damian Burden look forward to filling roles with national teams. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Otago rugby stole all the limelight in Ranfurly Shield week but its relative has been achieving under the radar.

Three Otago touch officials - Toni Wall, Damian Burden and Rahul Das - have been recognised nationally through roles with four national teams.

Wall will manage the New Zealand open men's side on a two-year contract, as well as the New Zealand under-17 boys for a tournament on the Sunshine Coast.

She is looking forward to the roles after 10 years with Otago touch.

''I'm very happy and quite surprised about the open men's [role],'' Wall said.

''Otago is only just getting recognised as a province that has some good coaches and managers.''

Wall has been involved in coaching and managing roles for Otago teams, from age-groups to the top level, and has been a member of the Otago touch board for the past two years.

She said the recognition for herself and fellow board members Burden and Das highlighted Otago's growing status on the national stage.

''Sport New Zealand has acknowledged that touch is up there. Back in the day it was seen as an off-season thing for rugby and league players.''

Wall said Otago touch was improving from the junior level up and there had also been a noticeable increase in female players and coaches.

Otago representatives selected for national sides this season were Laura McKenzie, Phoebe Steele and Mikayla Latta (under-17 girls), Thomas Johnson (under-17 boys), Kiana Pelasio (under-15 girls) and Atawhai Hotene (under-15 mixed).

Otago touch development officer Grant Milne said Wall's role with New Zealand touch was thoroughly deserved as she had ''been tour manager for about every team that's going''.

''It's pretty major and it's come on the back of many years coaching Otago teams.''

Burden and Das have been appointed coach of the under-17 mixed and under-15 mixed teams respectively.

Milne said Otago was now the envy of every other province and he could not recall a time when Otago touch had been so well represented in managing roles at a national level.

Burden was last year appointed chairman of the Otago Touch Association.

He coached the Otago under-17 mixed team to the final at the national championships three years ago, and has coached the under-19 and under-17 mixed teams. Last year, he coached the New Zealand under-15 mixed team on a tour of Australia.

Burden's and Das' New Zealand sides will travel to Brisbane in October.

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