http://www.theage.com.au/rugby-league/league-news/midas-touch-merger-tees-up-golden-future-for-the-game-20130808-2rkor.html A groundbreaking alliance between rugby league and touch football is set to skyrocket the game's participation numbers beyond a million players. Fairfax Media can reveal a merger between the NRL and Touch Football Australia will be announced early next week - making it the largest strategic alliance between two sports in Australia. It comes after two years of negotiations, which have intensified in the past six months since the appointment of Dave Smith as NRL chief executive, and brings together the sports after they effectively split 40 years ago. ''It's a family that should be together,'' a senior NRL official said on Thursday. ''It allows us to bring the game to so many people, in so many different ways, from touch to tag to tackle. It's a phenomenal move for us strategically.'' Advertisement Touch has been responsible for unearthing some of the game's biggest names. Wests Tigers superstar Benji Marshall, who represented Australia in the sport, is the most notable. Shaun Johnson and Matt Moylan are also products, while Darren Lockyer and Johnathan Thurston represented Queensland at touch football on their way to their rugby league careers. The alliance is a strategic masterstroke in the NRL's battle with the AFL because it provides a non-contact version of the sport under its own banner. Touch has more than 500,000 participants, across 324 local competitions, and is played by age groups from five to 70 years - all year round. Rugby league has more than 536,000 players, making the combined total of the two codes more than a million. ''This allows us the ability to come in touch with a more diverse group of people who participate in league or a non-contact version of rugby league,'' one league official said. ''It allows people to be involved from a contact or non-contact perspective, all year round from ages of five to 70. We want more people to be involved in our game, and this is actions speaking louder than words.'' There is a small hitch to the new relationship, though, with the popular OzTag - which has more than 130,000 participants - failing to reach an agreement with the NRL. It is understood the NRL refused to pay the asking price OzTag operators wanted to take over the commercial rights to their sport. The NRL version of tag football is the lesser-known version of the code called ''league tag''. Nevertheless, the benefit for touch football is enormous, especially for a sport with such a strong presence at the grassroots level. ''We're very happy with the alliance,'' one senior TFA official said. ''Joining the NRL means we can broaden our appeal, profile and reach as part of a bigger business. It gives us more opportunities than ever before for our sport. It's been a long process to get this far, but a worthwhile one. Touch grew out of rugby league in the mid-1960s and the sports have been separate since then. But this will allow us to take touch into new markets.'' Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/rugby-league/league-news/midas-touch-merger-tees-up-golden-future-for-the-game-20130808-2rkor.html#ixzz2bQXNHxMS I'd like to see an off season summer comp with NRL players..played maybe over a couple of weekends, just to be able to keep the NRL in the minds of fans over the summer months.....could be a great way of promoting both games in the off season.