The small farming community of Millmerran, located 210 kilometres South-west of Brisbane, has been doing it tough during the drought with little to cheer about with limited rainfall affecting the mixed farming operations in the district.The sport of Touch Football has given the close knit community a reason to cheer and made Monday night’s a little more exciting in the sleepy township with the formation of the first affiliated touch football competition in the area.Touch Football in Millmerran is a living, breathing example of the sport’s catch cry of Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime.Established in 1841, the Millmerran shire famous for sheep, cattle, dairy, cereal grains and cotton is an hour’s drive from the next closest touch affiliate in Queensland in Toowoomba.Millmerran is a Rugby League stronghold with the Millmerran Rams having a long and proud tenure in the Toowoomba Rugby league competition. The link between League and Touch Football is thus an easy leap to take.Recognising the need to engage the local community in sport, and the interest of the community in playing a football off-shoot, the Millmerran Shire Council through the Millmerran Sport and Recreation Centre, contacted the Queensland Touch Association late last year to start a competition and affiliate with the parent body.Nine teams comprising cattle, grain, and dairy farmers, cotton chippers, school children, power station workers, and assorted townsfolk congregate at the Millmerran Sports Centre every Monday night throwing their best long balls and conjuring their super steps in the Millmerran Sports Centre Mixed Touch Competition.Touch Football Queensland Development Officer Terry Mc Sweeney has been instumental in helping the town build their affiliate and is impressed with the enthusiasm of the locals who have embraced the competition with gusto.“It’s a 26 week competition. It’s the first affiliated competition in the district ever. They play seven a side to get everyone involved and run two timeslots, 6.30pm and 7.30pm – it gets too cold otherwise! They began in February and will go through to July, they are just loving it. It’s certainly an eye opener to the uninitiated. It’s very laid back, but it’s a great start, and it certainly helps the farmers to take their minds of more pressing and serious issues around the drought.” Mc Sweeney said.An eye opener, you can say that again.Consider the following, then compare the conditions most people operate in the metropolitan areas.The state of Millmerran’s fields and the grass cover – well, you have to have grass to worry about that, and you have to have water to concern yourself about restrictions. No dramas here!The grounds are rock hard, “Hard, but level” the locals nod sagely.Harder fields mean there are more casualties than in a season’s worth of “ER” episodes. Lots of injuries, lots of insurance claims then? Hardly, locals argue, rather sensibly, that by the time it takes to fill in the form required and for the associated processes to be followed, they’ll be better. Refereeing is the most interesting aspect of the Millmerran competition.The ninth team in the competition (who have the bye) referee the two games from the scoreline (lighting is at it’s best here) and “We trust you to keep your own five metres.”… Imagine how much players in the SEQTL or Vawdon Cup would love that rule, unkind critics would say it would be business as usual for the majority.The lighting is decidedly dodgy, there are no uniforms, and team availabilty for games sometimes hinges on getting through the daily chores on the farm.Oh, and did I mention it’s cold?How cold?Think Leo freezing in the Arctic waters in “Titanic” and you’re in the ball park.Then there’s the travel. Farmers travel up to 40 kilometres from nearby Southbrook, Brookstead, and the Yandilla district to play, but the popuation of 1400 have enthusiastically embraced the game and can’t get enough of it.“We ran this season just to see how it was received and we are overwhelmed by the response. There are players from ever walk of life involved, and it is a tremendous social release – it’s fun and it’s fitness, and it’s been fantastic for the town. We’d like to get a bit more professional with refereeing and uniforms and the like, but it’s just great to see the community have something to enjoy.” Roberta Richter, Manager of the Millmerran Sport and Recreation Complex said.The Millmerran Shire Council governs the Sport and Recreation Complex and the body will be looking to proceed next season with a Level One Referees Course and a possible AusTouch Centre program for the children in the township.“Some of the farmers who travel really look forward to it. It’s pretty heartbreaking at times and a tough lifestyle, so anything that takes your mind off the drought for a while is a welcome distraction. The fields are so hard, but these guys are out there diving around everywhere, they breed ’em tough out this way for sure. It’s great to see people playing touch, having a drink after the game, and catching up, it’s something common to the game right across the nation.” Touch Football Queensland’s Terry Mc Sweeney said.We’ll keep an eye on the Millmerran competition and keep you posted on its progress. Word is some high profile referees are keen to make the trek out to Millmerran to assist with the Grand finals, as long as they’re prepared to referee from the scoreline and let the players set the five metres, can’t imagine there’ll be too many problems…Now there’s a strategy for improved player/referee relations!If you live in the Millmerran Shire and are looking to play Touch Football, contact Roberta Richter or Kelly Grant on 07) 46951036 or e-mail email@example.com for further details.