It was once billed as a social way for footballers to keep fit over the off-season, but now OzTag is proving to be the perfect player development pool for women’s rugby league.
Developed in 1992, OzTag is a modified version of rugby league where defenders are tasked with removing tags instead of tackling.
As a result, games are fast, frenetic and highly skilled, especially at the elite level.
A focus is placed on speed, agility, tactical decisions and swift passing instead of brute strength, giving smaller players the chance to shine.
The sport is becoming more popular every year: well over 200,000 people of all ages play OzTag in Australia, many of them female.
An inclusive culture and a strict no contact policy have made it a great stepping stone into rugby league for women, allowing them to learn the fundamentals of the sport in a safe environment.
Prior to the establishment of women’s competitions in recent years, OzTag - along with touch football - was one of the only ways for females to play a form of rugby league, albeit altered.
Many prominent OzTag players have crossed over to rugby league in recent times, including Jillaroos five-eighth Allana Ferguson.
Ferguson was forced to stop playing rugby league at 12 years old, so took up OzTag because “it was the most similar” to the sport she grew up loving.
She went on to represent Australia in OzTag – the youngest to do so at just 15 – before she donned the green and gold in rugby league.
An OzTag teammate and close friend of Ferguson’s, 19-year-old Tanika O’Brien, also starred after trading tagging for tackling.