THUNDER OPEN AT HOME TO WIDNES General February 14, 2021 Newcastle Thunder will kick off the 2021 season at home on Good Friday to Widnes Vikings, as the Denis Betts side open their first season in the Betfred Championship for 11 years. Comprising 22 rounds of fixtures running until the weekend of September 19, the 2021 season will see Thunder play nine of the other 13 twice and the other four once. The Summer Bash will not be played in 2021 because of the expectation that crowds will have to be socially-distanced and therefore limited when fans are permitted to return. Starting their campaign with the first of 11 regular season home fixtures, it’s a match that promises to be a highly anticipated game thanks to a host of reunions it will offer. With five former Widnes boys in the squad, the strong links of both director of rugby Denis Betts and head coach Eamon O’Carroll and former Thunder number one Simon Finnigan at the helm of the Vikings. A trip to the Cumbrian coast follows in round two as Thunder renew rivalries with Whitehaven RLFC ahead of a second home game in the month against Sheffield Eagles. With the current public health situation within the UK still evolving, it is unknown how many of these fixtures will be played behind close doors. However fans are assured to be able to watch all the action, with live streaming set to be put in place via the RFL’s OuRLeague app. May brings a full month of league action with home fixtures against Batley and Halifax and away trips against London Broncos and Bradford in between, before a flight to the south of France Toulouse over the late bank holiday weekend.June begins with a second visit of the year to Swinton, with Thunder also heading to Heywood Road for the first round of this season’s Betfred Challenge Cup, before Oldham head to Kingston Park for the sole home game of the month. York, Dewsbury and Batley lie in wait in July, with the Rams the only visitors to the North East before hosting Newcastle at the end of August.Before that trip, Whitehaven, Bradford and the Broncos will be hosted at Kingston Park while Halifax Panthers will be faced at the Shay. Drawing to a close in September, the end of the regular season will see York resume the familiar position as Thunder’s opponents at home whilst Magic Weekend takes place at St James’ Park.Oldham will provide the final away trip of the season before Toulouse arrive on Tyneside for round 22. Now that the fixtures have been released for the regular season of the Betfred Championship and the draw made for the First and Second Rounds of the Betfred Challenge Cup, the RFL will work with all clubs, broadcasters and streaming partners over the next week to confirm when over the Easter Weekend the opening round Championship games will be played and also confirm the exact day and kick-off time for all First Round games of the Challenge Cup. Following a meeting of Championship and League 1 clubs with the RFL last week, it has been agreed that positions on the league table in each competition will be determined by points percentage, as in the Betfred Super League in 2020. This is to recognise the likelihood of fixtures being affected by Covid-19, with postponements permitted if a team loses seven or more players for Covid-related reasons – either players with positive tests, or who have been ruled out through test and trace analysis of close contacts in matches or training. The first option will be for matches to be rearranged on a free date – but if this is not possible, the fixture will be cancelled. It has also been determined to suspend Golden Point Extra Time for drawn matches for the 2021 season, following concerns expressed at the meeting for the welfare of players who will have gone more than a year since their last fixture, and the majority of whom are part-time. The intention is to reintroduce Golden Point for the 2022 campaign.