Holmes grandson Hudson set for Rhinos rumble

With Leeds Rhinos set to provide the opposition for Sunday’s pre-season friendly at Kingston Park Stadium, young middle Kieran Hudson has more reason than most to relish the visit of the Super League outfit.

One of a growing group of home-grown starlets that the club hopes will be the nucleus of its drive to reach the top tier of the game, Hudson has a special affinity with this weekend’s visitors, thanks to his maternal grandfather, John Holmes.

A talisman for the Rhinos for the best part of two decades and a world cup winner with Great Britain in 1972, Holmes made 625 appearances for Leeds and established himself as one of the club’s greatest ever players.

Following in those illustrious footsteps, Hudson is carving out a name for himself in a sport he only turned to after being released from the academy of Sunderland AFC, where the towering 20-year-old was deemed to be too small.

With his latest steps on his rugby league journey coming in the 40-16 friendly win over Whitehaven, the lad from East Boldon is aiming to prove he has improved despite enduring an injury interrupted season in 2019, a key year for his development.  

“It was good to play against Whitehaven and I really enjoyed it. I liked the contact level that was there playing against some older and more experienced lads.

“Last season I fell at the last hurdle. I got all the way through pre-season and then tore my hamstring in the first friendly, so last year has really been a year of rehab and getting back to where I was if not better.”

A player with an impressive physical presence, Hudson’s maturation since beginning to embark on his rugby league career has seen him move from the wing to the forwards and whilst being forced to sit out a large proportion of the season just gone proved frustrating, it afforded the 20-year-old the opportunity to prepare himself for his change of role.

“When I got injured, I was a winger, but I was being seen as more of a middle. That is probably the biggest changes you can get in position in terms of rugby league but with the injury, I couldn’t run much so with a lot of weight training I was able to get stronger and much more powerful.

It’s a completely different position, and I’ve got little experience of it, but I think my aggression can give me that edge and help me break into the team.”

Hudson has come a long way since being first introduced to the sport by team-mates Joe Brown and Rhys Clarke through rugby league sessions at Whitburn Academy.

First joining Jarrow Vikings before progressing into Thunder’s academy, he is now part of an ever-increasing number of local accents that can be heard in the first team changing room. Something the prop says shows the commitment the club has to be a team of the North East, for the North East.    

“When I first started playing rugby, there wasn’t really a rugby league club near me, so I first started playing union and everyone has come from a different background and taken their own route to end up in the same place.

That proves how good the development pathway is, that anyone from anywhere can get into Newcastle’s first team if they have the skill and try hard enough.

“It also shows the coaches care about getting local lads in and wanting Newcastle Thunder to be home grown instead of just pulling anyone in from anywhere, they want local lads playing and its up to us to make them give us those chances.”

Ahead of what is set to be a huge two years for the sport in the region with world cup games, the return of the Dacia Magic Weekend and Thunder playing a game at St James’ Park for the first time, the memory of Holmes is proving to be a source of inspiration for his grandson.

“I wish what I knew now, what he had done back then when he was around. Knowing what he achieved int the game gives me that added the incentive to push on and earn my chances with Thunder.

“My granda never took me to a game because he said he could never watch Leeds, because he always just wanted to put his boots on and play. We used to watch it on the TV, but we never went to a live game.

“When I was younger and all football orientated, I didn’t think anything of it because I didn’t think about rugby that much. But now, it gives me a bit more determination to go as far as I can, because I know that it is in my blood and I have it in my background to get further on.

Tickets for Sunday’s final home pre-season friendly are on sale now and can be booked by clicking here, calling 0871 226060* or by visiting the Kingston Park Stadium box office.

All adult and concession tickets booked by midnight on Saturday 25th January, save supporters £5 on full matchday admission prices.

*Calls cost 13p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge