The development of rugby league in the region will expand significantly in 2021 as the award winning Newcastle Rugby Foundation announces exciting expansion plans to the Newcastle Thunder community department.

With the sport in the north east seeing a 40% growth in participation over the past five years, the addition of three new members of staff will see the foundation’s programmes result in more players than ever before participate in the game.

Over 1300 players are currently registered at the 15 community rugby league clubs in the region, with growth of school teams, community clubs or variants such as touch, PDRL/LDRL or wheelchair rugby being targeted by the new look community team.

There will be a focus on club development in the North of Tyne, South of Tyne and Tees Valley, in order to create new participation opportunities and on school engagement via the Sky Try and Thunder School Connections programmes.

In addition to building up the RLWC 2021, which will see five games in the men’s competition held in the north east and the Foundation aim to engage new audiences, there will also be a focus on those who have been involved in the game’s past via a North East Rugby League heritage programme.

Alongside, Thunder’s coaching camp programme will be expanded with dates set to be hosted both at Kingston Park and community clubs every school holiday while enhanced pre-match activation at home Championship and cup matches will serve to make big games, bigger.

The Foundation on will also be launching new programmes to engage the north east community by using rugby league as a vehicle to improve mental and physical well-being

In order to develop and deliver these exciting programmes the Foundation will welcome Steve Beaty as Newcastle Thunder Community Manager, with Danny Gilroy and Joe Eltringham joining as Community Development Officers

The trio will join Jason Grant who is currently leading efforts as the CDO in Tees Valley.

Over the forthcoming weeks and months further details on each of the Foundation’s programmes will be confirmed along with introductions to the members of the team and information on how to become involved.

Chair of Newcastle Rugby Foundation Mick Hogan said: “This is a really exciting development for rugby league in the north east, particularly with the Rugby League World Cup kicking off in Newcastle this October.

“We are building on the success of our development programme and the creation of new clubs like Newcastle Magpies and Wallsend Centurions is a real positive, particularly in the areas where there traditionally hasn’t been rugby league activity. 

“The diversity of our rugby league offer will emphasise that it is a sport for everyone from pre-school tots to over 35s masters, women and girls, touch rugby and the various forms of disability rugby league.

“Accessibility and inclusivity will remain at the heart of everything we do. The Foundation, along with our partners, are driving up the numbers of young people playing the game in schools. It is important we transition these new players into clubs all across the region which will ultimately result in a stronger Newcastle Thunder.”

Jan Robinson – Chair of NERL said: “2020 was a difficult year for everyone and as we return to a ‘new normal’ in 2021 we have much to look forward to in the north east, not only in terms of a playing season, but also our local team in the Championship, and the Rugby League World Cup with significant games in our area.

“It is very pleasing to see that the Foundation will be there to support and develop Rugby League in the North East as we aim to ‘Build Back Better’.”

To get in touch for more information on the Newcastle Thunder Community please contact [email protected]