It is the touch community that keeps Pam Hyde coming back for another stint at running the national championships.
The Touch New Zealand tournament and events manager will be at the helm for this weekend's National Touch Championships in Rotorua, which will attract 1250 players to Rotorua Stadium, Westbrook Park and Ray Boord Park from yesterday and Hyde says touch is a whānau sport.
"You get the families that are a big part of the sport. Often you will see families involved as coaches, referees and players in different teams. Because we have under-21, open and masters grades, it means our community is wide."
The three-day event will include 81 teams, playing on 15 fields, and Hyde says the tournament was usually around 72 teams.
Hyde has been operating within the sport for more than 20 years and has been running the national championships since 2013.
"Our mixed grade has always been a strong point but the evolution has been that the level of competition has grown. The closeness of the games has been great in recent years, where as we used to have the top teams win by big margins. This season we also have our top-level provinces entering two teams."
Hyde spearheads Touch New Zealand's junior development tournaments and believes the sport has survived for its simplicity.
"It is a relatively easy sport to play, the rules are not difficult to follow and it is not a big expense for families. The minimal contact is an inviting aspect for children as well.
"There are lots of team dynamics in touch and it is one of the few sports where a mixed grade is up played on international stage. Women that play in a mixed team need to be able to play at the same pace."
Hyde said the crossover to other sports, the most obvious being rugby and league, was a big asset to the sport. With the rise of sevens as a legitimate pathway in rugby in recent years, it is hard to see touch's popularity abating.
"The skill set that applies to touch is valuable as well. Most of the top Black Ferns have played touch. A lot of top players still play touch because there is a crossover. The application into sevens is amazing. The skills are applicable in a lot of competitive environments. The structure is there and I think the kids are learning well. They have a much better games sense now."
Hyde says the event has not been held in Rotorua in at least 15 years, and the city offers plenty for visiting teams. She says the event will bring around $1million into the city.
"We picked Rotorua because of the size of the fields, the ease of access in terms of accommodation and the differing levels of accommodation – teams can stay in backpackers or on the marae. Rotorua offered us a different experience as a package and culturally it will be a new thing for some people too.
"The Rotorua events team at the stadium has been amazing. There are challenges everywhere when you bring big events into a city and their willingness to work with us has been great. We also want to have zero impact on the venue and that is not just in terms of things like rubbish, but how we treat the grounds as well."
9am: Games begin
9am: Games begin
11.40am: Major finals begin