Thunder Re-brand Player Development Programme

Newcastle Thunder’s renowned Player Development Programme is set for a rebranding in 2019 in order to continue to innovate and enhance the experience and development of junior rugby league players.

Since its inception, Thunder’s PDP has been a mainstay of the North East Rugby League junior calendar – allowing all players regardless of ability from Under 11 to Under 14 to access coaching from Thunder’s Academy and First Team coaches as well as play a variety of modified games to increase their enjoyment of the sport as well as further support and challenge their progression.

In 2019, the PDP will be altered to include three SPARC Festivals ran by Thunder Academy, which will be built into the NERL Junior calendar to allow all teams to visit Kingston Park and take part.  In another exciting addition to the PDP each club will be offered the opportunity to bring one of their training sessions to Kingston Park to train alongside Thunder’s Under 16 Academy.  With access to Thunder’s Academy coaches including rugby coaches, strength and conditioning coaches and other support staff we are sure that players will have a fun and enjoyable experience alongside their team mates using the brilliant facilities here at Kingston Park.

Speaking about the changes, Academy Manager Michael Heap said “We are extremely proud of the ongoing progress of North East Rugby League and the work that is being done across the clubs and schools.  Since PDP was created in 2016 we have had some really positive feedback from players and parents who have accessed the programme and really enjoyed being a part of it.  We feel that now is a great time to make some adjustments to the programme to freshen it up and continue to provide a programme which players want to be a part of and really get some benefit from.  We also feel that, alongside the great work which is being done in the community game by lots of very dedicated volunteers, the PDP has helped to enhance the skills of junior players and has contributed to the improvement of future Thunder Academy players.  We now have examples of players who have accessed the PDP going on to play for England Youth as well as our First Team.”

“We believe the changes for 2019’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Development Programme will further enhance the player’s enjoyment of the game as well as providing a really unique opportunity.  The SPARC Festivals will see some additional scoring opportunities within conventional games for players based on our key Talent ID themes; Skills, Physical, Awareness, Resilience and Character.  There will be additional points available for any player who demonstrates quality in the SPARC areas such as good examples of creative play, ball handling, leadership or dealing with adversity.  Whilst the club visits will provide an opportunity for players and coaches to come along with their mates to sample things that they may not previously had access to such as video review, GPS monitoring, strength and conditioning and physical testing. We intend to give players an introduction to some of these things in a fun, competitive and useful way.  The 2019 Development Programme is not just specific to NERL clubs.  We are open to clubs from other areas to attend as well as school teams and other sports.”

2019’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Development Programme will also see a continuation of the Coach Development Programme as well as the introduction of a Club & Volunteer Workshop.  The coach development aspects will focus around the key on field themes of positional specific skills, attack and defensive play whilst focussing on the other areas of player development such as mental skills, athletic development and lifestyle in a way which caters for the different age groups within NERL.  There will be input from Thunder Head Coach Jason Payne as well as a number of First Team players.

The Club & Volunteer Workshop aims to assist clubs and sharing some of the outstanding work being done by our member clubs in the areas of social media, recruitment, fundraising, qualifications and how Thunder can help.

To register your interest in the SPARC festivals, club visits, CDP or Volunteer workshop please email [email protected]


Key dates:-

Saturday 16th March – Under 14 SPARC Festival 1,  Thunder U16 v Midlands & West Wales before Thunder v West Wales Raiders

Tuesday 19th March – Coach Development Workshop 1 – Attack with Liam Finn

Sunday 7th April – Club & Volunteer Development Workshop, U19s v Leeds & Thunder v Oldham.

Tuesday 9th April – Coach Development Workshop 2 – Position Specific Skills with Thunder 1st Team players

Tuesday 7th May – Coach Development Workshop 3 – Defence with Jason Payne

Saturday 8th June – SPARC Festival 2 (u12 & u14) & Thunder U19 v Castleford Tigers U19

Saturday 27th July – SPARC Festival 3 (u12 & u14)

*Club Visits to be scheduled between 16th March & 27th July.  Done on first come basis subject to availability.