Twenty of Cramlington’s brightest prospects are part of the academy set-up of the North East’s only professional rugby league club for this season.
Following an intense winter training period, Newcastle Thunder’s U16s kicked off their season with a match against Cumbria Storm on Sunday with a team that featured 13 Cramlington Rockets players.
The Northumberland-based club has enjoyed a lot of success in recent years, dominating the junior competitions and securing no less than seven trophies in 2016.
With coaches overseen by a dedicated club development officer, the ever growing set up is now seeing the fruits of their work in the make up of the recently announced Newcastle Thunder Academy squads.
The U16s match was part of a double header of action with the U19s also taking on the City of Hull Academy.
Despite nervous errors from both sides, it was Thunder that emerged victorious in the opening game, winning 30-28.
Eleven Rockets made their debuts alongside Ryan Hull and Seth Kippax-Jones, the senior men of the team, having being a part of last year’s squad when playing up a year.
This time they were joined by debutants Dean Carling and Owen Wright, who just missed out on the squad last time around.
Others making their bow includes U14s north east player of the year, Mark Roberts who was joined by fellow nominees, Fergus Simpson and Alex Donaghy with Jack Walker, Isaac Nokes, Nathan Clemmett, Phillip Brantingham, Lewis Howe and Ewan Goodridge also featuring.
With players also selected from Durham Tigers, Wallsend Eagles, Catterick Crusaders and Cockermouth Titans, there is a strong sense of optimism about what this group of players can achieve.
Following the conclusion of the U16s match, seven more Rockets ran out for the U19s as they commenced their pre-season.
Despite plenty of positives, the Hull side proved too much for the hosts, heading home with a 52-22 victory in the bag.
Making his debut was Cramlington’s 2015 U16s captain Chris Paterson, who joined England youth international Jake Woods and Thunder U19s regulars David Weetman and Jack Quinn in the starting line-up.
With Woods scoring three conversions and a try and Weetman captaining the side and scoring a brace of four pointers himself, it was another solid contribution from the Northumberland-based club.
There were also debuts off the bench for north east young player of the year nominee, Joe Morris and last season’s U16s treble winners, Oliver Gowing and Tom Wilcox.
“We are very excited to see so many Rockets progressing in their rugby league careers” said Cramlington Rockets chairman Jeff Ball.
“There are some very good prospects across both squads that you would hope crack on and push for a first team spot in years to come.
“However, we all appreciate there is a lot of work to get through before that happens, but based on the level of ability they have shown today we are the most optimistic we have ever been.”
Newcastle Thunder U16s squad: 1. Ryan Hull, 2. Jack Walker, 3. Dean Carling, 4. Isaac Nokes (Cramlington Rockets), 5. George Robinson (Catterick Crusaders), 6. Alex Donaghy, 7. Fergus Simpson (Cramlington Rockets), 8. Tyler Walton, 9. Adam Hay, 10. Josh Leighton (Wallsend Eagles), 11. Nathan Clemmitt, 12. Seth Kippax-Jones, 13. Phillip Brantingham, 14. Mark Roberts (Cramlington Rockets), 15. Jonny Grey (Durham Tigers), 16. Tony Saywell (Wallsend Eagles), 17. Luke Broster (Cockermouth Titans), 18. Owen Wright, 19. Ewan Goodridge, 20. Lewis Howe (Cramlington Rockets).
Newcastle Thunder U19s squad: 1. Jack Quinn (Cramlington Rockets), 2. Mark McCallan (Gateshead Storm), 3. Adam Bielby (Durham Demons), 4. Jake Woods (Cramlington Rockets), 5. Scott Derrick (Easterhouse Panthers), 6. Dan Coates (Durham Demons), 7. Cal Ellis (Peterlee Pumas), 8. Liam Tasker (Newcastle University), 9. Owen Reed (Gateshead Storm), 10. Sandy Rae (Durham Demons), 11. Jed Charlton (Gateshead Storm), 12. Chris Paterson (Cramlington Rockets), 13. David Weetman (Cramlington Rockets), 14. Ollie Gowing (Cramlington Rockets), 15. Arron McBride (Catterick Crusaders), 16. Tom Wilcox (Cramlington Rockets), 17. Nat Kitching (Durham Tigers), 18. Will Bentley, 19. Rory Nettleton (Jarrow Vikings), 20. Anthony Dyne (Peterlee Pumas), 21. Joe Morris (Cramlington Rockets), 22. Kieran Hudson (Jarrow Vikings).