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Newcastle Thunder

Newcastle Thunder
Gateshead Thunder emblem
Club information
Full name Newcastle Thunder Rugby League Football Club
Nickname(s) Thunder
Short name Newcastle
Founded 1999
Current details
CEO(s) Keith Christie
Coach(s) Stanley Gene[1]
Captain(s) Jason Payne
Competition Kingstone Press League 1
2014 Championship 1 4th
Challenge Cups Quarter finalists (2009)
National League Two 1 (2008)
Most capped 217 - Robin Peers
Most points 389 - Paul Thorman
Gateshead Thunder Home 2009 jersey

Newcastle Thunder is a professional rugby league club based in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. They play in the Kingstone Press League 1 competition, the third tier of rugby league in the United Kingdom. They play their home matches at Kingston Park, also home to rugby union side Newcastle Falcons.

Newcastle Thunder was founded in 1999 as Gateshead Thunder. The club has had one season in the Super League (1999) and is the only professional rugby league club in North East England. The club have won one championship during their run, in 2008.

They have a partnership with Super League side Hull Kingston Rovers, are coached by Stanley Gene and have a number of high profile internationals in their squad including Jason Tali and Mark Mexico


  • History 1
    • Early rugby league on Tyneside 1.1
    • Super League 1.2
    • Second squad 1.3
    • Third squad 1.4
    • Fourth squad 1.5
    • Recent history 1.6
  • Past coaches 2
  • 2015 squad 3
  • 2016 transfers 4
  • Records 5
    • Player records 5.1
    • Team records 5.2
  • Former players 6
  • Honours 7
  • Juniors 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


Early rugby league on Tyneside

There have been several Tyneside-based rugby league teams over the years. Wallsend RFC flirted with the code in the early years of the Northern Union, a South Shields team joined at the turn of the 20th century and in 1938, Newcastle moved south of the River Tyne and played a season of matches at the White City Sports Stadium but did not rejoin the league after the Second World War. Several other teams have come and gone in the intervening years.

The Charity Shield match and several full and junior internationals were held at the International Stadium from the 1980s and over the next two decades. An academy team, the Gateshead Mets, was formed, which played against the academy teams of professional clubs.

Super League

Mid-way through the 1998 season, Gateshead was granted a franchise in the Super League ahead of Swansea and Cardiff. A competition was held to determine the name for this club, and Gateshead Thunder was born with Shaun McRae as head coach.

Despite early season problems in attracting fans to a new summer sport, by the end of the season the average gate had risen to 3,895. Gateshead finished in sixth place – just two points outside the play-offs. They had beaten St Helens home and away and beaten Wigan 'on the road' in Edinburgh at Tynecastle. Matt Daylight was the joint leading try scorer in Super League and winger Ian Herron was one of the deadliest goal-kickers in the top flight.

Gateshead Thunder claimed to have lost £700,000 during their one year in existence and on Monday 15 November 1999 the board announced they would merge the club with Hull, accepting a £1.25 million fee from Super League Europe to do so. The Association of Premiership Clubs blocked proposals for the newly merged company to enter a separate Hull-based team in the Northern Ford Premiership [6] and so the new club would be called 'Hull' and play all its home games in Hull itself. This was widely seen as a takeover simply to allow Hull to remain in Super League.

The fans of the Gateshead club set up a campaigning organisation, Thunder Storm, to fight the "merger". Although this proved unsuccessful, it was the catalyst for a new Gateshead Thunder to be formed. The new Gateshead Thunder was accepted back to play in the Northern Ford Premiership on 2 August 2000 with a similar bid from Bramley being rejected. The new board had the stated objective of winning back Gateshead's place in Super League back within five years.

Second squad

The new Thunder's first game was a friendly for the "Tolent Cup" against another club that had been threatened with merger, Sheffield Eagles. The first official game was on 3 December 2000 with an 18–0 defeat to Hull Kingston Rovers. They finished third bottom under coach Andy Kelly with back to back wins over Hunslet and York were the only league successes and a win over amateurs Wigan St. Judes in the Challenge Cup.

Financial problems were again to trouble the club. A bold plan for the 2002 season failed, and when only one draw, 12–12 against Featherstone Rovers, was recorded after the first two months Thunder were forced to cut their losses. Andy Kelly and the club's 15 Yorkshire-based players, were released as Thunder went into administration with spiralling debts.

Third squad

Club sponsor Mike Jeffels took over the club through his Kicks Leisure organisation. Former Bramley coach Paul Fletcher was brought in, taking over a young, inexperienced and predominantly locally produced side. Although they came close to victory against Keighley and Swinton, Thunder Mark III lost every game to finish bottom of the table.

2003 saw eight Australians added to the squad, along with Bill Ryan as a coaching adviser. After just eight games of the season, Kicks Leisure withdrew their sponsorship, chairman Steve Worsnop left the club and coach Rob Jones refused to work with the club's first team following a dispute with the remaining contract players. Thunder had debts which were reportedly in excess of £50,000.

A panel of supporters, including committee members of Thunder Storm took over the running of the club in the interim period. This management committee was successful in persuading the Rugby Football League (RFL) to allow Gateshead Thunder to enter National League Two. A business case based on the funding provided by the members' club, lottery and matchday income was accepted by the governing body but was still £8–10,000 short of the minimum needed to run the club for the rest of the season, and a series of fundraising efforts were organised to fund the shortfall.

Fourth squad

Gateshead playing against Limoux in the Challenge Cup

The new era of Thunder Mark IV came with the Arriva Trains Cup victory over Workington Town at Gateshead RUFC's ground; the International Stadium being unavailable. Fundraising efforts and sponsorship from local companies meant that by the end of the 2003 season Gateshead finished the year in the black, with all debts paid. On the field, however, the situation deteriorated: coach Paul Fletcher resigned after a defeat by London Skolars. The board appointed Seamus McCallion as head coach. The former Durham Cricket Chairman and head of Century FM, Bill Midgley, joined the board.

2005 saw the arrival of Dean Thomas as head coach at Gateshead. Dean was able to strengthen the squad, bringing a multi-national flavour to Tyneside rugby as he recruited players from Australia, the West Indies, Fiji and elsewhere. The strategy paid off, and Thomas guided Thunder into the play-offs, before they eventually went out to Workington Town. Off the field, the club underwent a restructuring, with new investment coming from Essex-based financier Neil MacPherson. The club returned to the status of a limited company, with three directors. After two stalled attempts, it was agreed that Gateshead Thunder would be allowed to use Newcastle Falcons' Kingston Park stadium for a game against York. They also played a game at the venue in both 2006 and 2007, and the club stated that they hoped in future to be able to play one game a year at Kingston Park. Dean Thomas guided Gateshead into the play-offs for two seasons running. He left the club at the end of the 2006 season and was replaced by former Castleford coach, Australian Dave Woods.

Recent history

The 2008 season saw Gateshead exceed expectations, going unbeaten for much of the year and winning promotion to National League One for the 2009 season as champions.

Thunder's plans for the 2009 season were disrupted when it was announced that Dave Woods had been sacked following alleged financial misdemeanours. [7] Assistant Coach Chris Hood temporarily took over the coaching duties, and was later appointed permanently. With only a handful of players signed at the point of Woods' departure, Hood was forced to put together a squad at the eleventh hour. Several high-profile signings were made by Hood from the French Elite championship but the players would not be available until May 2009 at the finale of the French Elite season. Some Super League players were also taken on loan to strengthen the squad.

However after a weak start to the season, Thunder appointed Steve McCormack as Head Coach with Chris Hood returning to his role as Assistant Head Coach in April 2009. Through the efforts of Hood (victories against Whitehaven & Doncaster) and McCormack (victory against Oldham), Thunder were the last non-Super League team competing in the 2009 Challenge Cup having reached the quarter-finals. They played against St Helens but lost 66–6. Wins over Halifax, Widnes, Leigh, Doncaster and Toulouse saw Thunder secure their Championship status.

However, Gateshead Thunder's owner Steve Garside wound up the parent company Gateshead and Newcastle Rugby Ltd in October 2009. A new parent company Thunder Rugby Limited was formed in November 2009 by the previous company's chairman Rod Findlay, Assistant Head Coach Chris Hood and Business Development Manager Keith Christie. This breach of insolvency laws caused them to be relegated back down to Championship 1.

Hood took over the reins again as Head Coach for the 2010 season. In that year, with a squad of predominantly local based players, the clubs fulfilled both its fixtures and financial commitments. At the end of the season, Hood stepped down again and 2011 saw the club employ Richard Pell as Head Coach. [8]

After a half a season of difficulty on the field, the club and Pell parted company [9] and the club went back to basing itself around the local game. Kevin Neighbour, Thunder's highest appearance holder, became Head Coach.

Stanley Gene took over as Head Coach of Gateshead Thunder in the 2014 season. Thunder were taken over by Newcastle Rugby Limited, owned by rugby union side Newcastle Falcons' chairman Semore Kurdi, in March 2014. The club were rebranded in January 2015 as the Newcastle Thunder and applied for permission to use Kingston Park in Newcastle as their home ground.[2]

Past coaches

2015 squad

* Announced on 9 January 2015:

2015 Squad Numbers

No Player Position Former club
1 Louis Sheriff (VC) Full Back Dewsbury
2 Jacob Blades Wing, Centre Hull Kingston Rovers
3 Jason Tali Centre PNG Hunters
4 Joe Brown Centre Doncaster
5 Tom Capper Wing Northumbria University
6 Matty Beharrell Stand Off Hull Kingston Rovers
7 Jordan Meads Scrum Half New Zealand Warriors
8 Matt Barron Prop
9 Dayne Craig Hooker Western Suburbs
10 Mark Mexico Prop Cronulla Sharks
11 Jason Payne (C) Second Row Castleford
12 Rhys Clarke Second Row Barrow
13 Charlie Wabo Loose Forward Hela Wigman
14 Paul Stamp Hooker York
15 Lee Fewlass Prop
16 Fran Welsh Prop Young Cherrypickers
17 Stuart Kain Full Back Hunslet
18 Josh Stoker Prop Gateshead Panthers
19 Craig Boot Back Row Bramley
20 Alex Ruff Second Row
21 Lee Mapals Wing
22 Sam Bowering Utility Back
23 Benn Hardcastle Stand Off York
24 Ryan McDonald Prop London Skolars
25 Evan Simons Hooker Hemel Stags
26 Iain Murray Prop Northumbria University
27 Connor Clayton Back Row
28 James Pocklington Full Back Gateshead Thunder
29 Zach Clark Prop
30 Sam Luckley Prop
31 Ali Blair Centre
32 Daniel Turland Second Row
33 Paddy Hargreaves Hooker
34 Daniel Bleek Centre
35 Lewis Davey Wing
36 Sonny Esslemont Second Row Hull Kingston Rovers - Season Loan

2016 transfers

Player Club Contract length Date
Darrell Olpherts Hemel Stags 1 Year October 2015
Ben Thorburn Souths Logan Magpies 1 Year October 2015
Player Club Contract length Date
Matty Beharrell Swinton Lions 1 Year September 2015
Jason Tali Doncaster RLFC 1 Year October 2015
Jordan Meads Australia 2 Years October 2015
Mark Mexico Sheffield Eagles 2 Years October 2015
Louis Sheriff Doncaster RLFC 1 Year October 2015
Stuart Kain Released
Ryan McDonald Released
Alex Ruff Released
Iain Murray Released
Connor Clayton Released
James Pocklington Released
Dan Turland Released


Player records

Correct to end of 2005 season.
  • Most tries in a match: 5 by Andy Walker vs London Skolars 22 June 2003
  • Most goals in a match: 11 by Ian Herron vs Wakefield Trinity 5 September 1999
  • Most points in a match: 26 by Ian Herron vs Wakefield Trinity 5 September 1999
  • Most tries in a season: 25 by Matt Daylight, 1999
  • Most goals in a season: 105 by Ian Herron, 1999
  • Most points in a season: 246 by Chris Birch, 2005
  • Most career tries: 36 by Kevin Neighbour, 2001-date
  • Most career goals: 137 by Paul Thorman, 2000–2004
  • Most career points: 365 by Paul Thorman, 2000–2004
  • Most career appearances: 115 by Steve Bradley, 1999-date

Team records

Former players



Gateshead run a junior team in the Gillette National Youth League.


  1. ^ [10]
  2. ^ "Newcastle Thunder: Gateshead rugby league side relocates". BBC Sport (BBC). 20 January 2015. Retrieved 20 January 2015. 

External links

  • Gateshead Thunder on YouTube
  • National League website
  • Gateshead Thunder forum on
  • Gateshead Thunder Fans Forums –
  • Gateshead Thunder forum on
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