A junior rugby league team from south east Northumberland is celebrating a successful year on the pitch.
Cramlington Rockets U14s have finished the 2015 season with the League Leaders Shield, the League Grand Final trophy and the North East Cup to their name, making them the region’s most successful junior side.
Led by a management team of Jeff Ball, Paul Marley and Billy Wright, the U14s are made up of a number of players who have been playing rugby league since the U9s level, as well as players who are newer to the sport.
In regular competitions they won all their games bar one, a 30-14 loss away to eventual fellow grand finalists Catterick Crusaders.
Keen to even the scores, the return home fixture in July was played at Kingston Park as part of Newcastle Thunder’s Friday Night Lights initiative, which gives local amateur sides the chance to have the big game experience on the Kingston Park turf.
Played in front of a vocal crowd, the Rockets turned in arguably their best performance the season to win 24-18.
“A proper rugby league match,” is how head coach, Jeff Ball described it.
The physiological advantage of winning at Kingston Park gave the Rockets an edge in the League Grand Final at the same venue against the same side a few weeks later as thety won 24-20 in a tense affair to lift the trophy.
The North East Cup Final was not as close but no less entertaining with the Rockets taking on local rivals Whitley Bay Barbarians and winning 44-0, saving their best performance until last and recording their first clean sheet of the season in the process.
Success on the pitch was made even better with news that five players – Ryan Hull, Seth Kippax-Jones, Owen Wright, Dean Carling and Jack Scantlebury – had been selected to join the North East Academy set up
Meanwhile Ball also won RFL National Volunteer of the Year for his work with the team and as chairman of the club.
“The highlight of the year for me was when Lee Crooks, the North East Academy coach, asked Dean and Jack to join the academy in the aftermath of the cup final win.” said Ball.
“It is a memory that will last a lifetime for them.
“To be able to give these guys the opportunities to play at venues like Kingston Park and progress onto representative honours while having loads of fun as a team is what it is all about.
The whole team thoroughly deserves their success this year as they have been remained dedicated and worked hard from the start. The 2016 season promises to be just as exciting.”