Thunder confirm 2019 coaching structure On Field December 4, 2018 Following a successful autumn of squad building, Newcastle Thunder have returned to pre-season training with a new-look coaching structure putting the team through their paces, as the build-up to the 2019 Betfred League 1 season begins. While Jason Payne remains at the helm as Thunder’s head coach, there have been a number of changes aimed at ensuring Thunder make the most of the exciting squad assembled and build on the solid academy foundations laid in 2018. The first of those changes see Michael Heap step away from his first-team assistant coach duties in order to focus solely on developing the next generation of Thunder stars as the head of the club’s academy structures. Under his tutelage, the Under 19s made significant progress in the season just gone; taking wins against London Broncos and Wakefield Trinity and showing increased levels of competitiveness against Super League academy sides. He will be joined in the academy coaching ranks by former first-team coach Mick Mantelli, whose many successful years spent as head of the Canberra Raiders Under 20s set up make him the ideal person to work alongside Heap, ensuring more of the club’s juniors are ready for first team call-ups. Coming in to fill the vacated first team assistant position, Yorkshireman Tim Rumford will bolster the Thunder coaching ranks and bring additional vital experience of League 1 as the team attempt to negotiate passage up to the Betfred Championship. Following a stint with Castleford Tigers academy Rumford spent three seasons at the helm of Oxford, achieving impressive results with limited resources and brings a skill-set that will complement that of Payne’s. Completing the coaching office, first team player Joe Brown will take up a skills-focused role that will see the Jamaican international impart the wealth of experience that he has acquired over his time in the game.