Gateshead Thunder

Gateshead Thunder

Infobox esl club
clubname = Gateshead Thunder

fullname = "Gateshead Thunder Rugby League Football Club"
emblem = Thunderbolt
colours = White, purple and gold
founded = 1999
sport = Rugby league
league = Rugby League National League Two
ground = Gateshead International Stadium
web = []

Gateshead Thunder are a rugby league team from Gateshead in Tyne and Wear. They are the only professional rugby league team in the North East of England, though several amateur teams now exist, notably Gateshead Storm who play in the National Conference competition.

They play their home matches at Gateshead International Stadium though for rugby league purposes this is referred to as the 'Thunderdome'. For the 2009 season the club will play in National League One.


Early rugby league on Tyneside

There have been several Tyneside-based rugby league teams over the years. Wallsend RFC flirted with the code in the early years of the Northern Union, a South Shields team joined at the turn of the century and in 1938, Newcastle moved south of the Tyne and played a season of matches at the White City Sports Stadium but did not rejoin the league after World War two. Several other teams have come and gone in the intervening years

The Charity Shield match and several full and junior internationals were held at the International Stadium from the eighties and over the next two decades. An academy team, the Gateshead Mets, was formed, which played against the academy teams of professional clubs.

uper League

In 1999 Gateshead was granted a franchise in the Super League. A competition was held to determine the name for this club, and Gateshead Thunder was born with Shaun McRae as head coach.

Despite early season problems in attracting fans to a new summer sport, by the end of the season the average gate had risen to 3,700. Gateshead finished in sixth place - just two points outside the play-offs. They had beaten St Helens home and away and beaten Wigan 'on the road' in Edinburgh at Tynecastle. Matt Daylight was the joint leading try scorer in Super League and winger Ian Herron was one of the deadliest goal-kickers in the top flight.

Gateshead Thunder claimed to have lost £700,000 during their one year in existence and on Monday 15th November 1999 the board announced they would merge the club with Hull Sharks, accepting a £1.25 million fee from Super League Europe to do so. The new club would be called Hull FC and play all its home games in Kingston-upon-Hull. This was widely seen as a takeover simply to allow Hull to remain in Super League.

The fans of the Gateshead club set up a campaigning organisation, Thunder Storm, to fight the "merger". Although this proved unsuccessful, it was the catalyst for a new Gateshead Thunder to be formed. The new Gateshead Thunder was accepted back to play in the Northern Ford Premiership on the 2nd August 2000 with a similar bid from Bramley being rejected. The new board had the stated objective of winning back Gateshead's place in Super League back within five years.

econd squad

The new Thunder's first game was a friendly for the "Tolent Cup" against another club that had been threatened with merger, Sheffield Eagles. The first official game was on the 3rd December 2000 with an 18-0 defeat to Hull Kingston Rovers. They finished third bottom under coach Andy Kelly with back to back wins over Hunslet and York were the only league successes and a win over amateurs Wigan St. Judes in the Challenge Cup.

Financial problems were again to trouble the club. A bold plan for the 2002 season failed, and when only one draw, 12-12 against Featherstone Rovers, was recorded after the first two months Thunder were forced to cut their losses. Andy Kelly and the club's 15 Yorkshire-based players, were released as Thunder went into administration with spiralling debts.

Third squad

Club sponsor Mike Jeffels took over the club through his Kicks Leisure organisation. Former Bradley coach Paul Fletcher was brought in, taking over a young, inexperienced and predominantly locally produced side. Although they came close to victory against Keighley Cougars and Swinton Lions, Thunder Mark III lost every game to finish bottom of the table.

2003 saw eight Australians added to the squad, along with Bill Ryan as a coaching adviser.After just eight games of the season, Kicks Leisure withdrew their sponsorship, chairman Steve Worsnop left the club and coach Rob Jones refused to work with the club's first team following a dispute with the remaining contract players. Thunder had debts which were reportedly in excess of £50,000.

A panel of supporters, including committee members of Thunder Storm took over the running of the club in the interim period. This management committee was successful in persuading the RFL to allow Gateshead Thunder to enter National League Two. A business case based on the funding provided by the members' club, lottery and matchday income was accepted by the governing body but was still £8-10,000 short of the minimum needed to run the club for the rest of the season, and a series of fundraising efforts were organised to fund the shortfall.

Fourth squad

The new era of Thunder Mark IV came with the Arriva Trains Cup victory over Workington Town at Gateshead Rufc ground; the International Stadium being unavailable. Fundraising efforts and sponsorship from local companies meant that by the end of the 2003 season Gateshead finished the year in the black, with all debts paid. On the field, however, the situation deteriorated: coach Paul Fletcher resigned after a defeat by London Skolars.The board appointed Seamus McCallion as head coach. The former Durham Cricket Chairman and head of Century FM, Bill Midgley, joined the board.

2005 saw the arrival of Dean Thomas as head coach at Gateshead. Dean was able to strengthen the squad, bringing a multi-national flavour to Tyneside rugby as he recruited players from Australia, the West Indies, Fiji and elsewhere. The strategy paid off, and Thomas guided Thunder into the play-offs, before they eventually went out to Workington. Off the field, the club underwent a restructuring, with new investment coming from Essex-based financier Neil MacPherson. The club returned to the status of a limited company, with three directors. After two stalled attempts, it was agreed that Gateshead Thunder would be allowed to use Newcastle Falcons' Kingston Park stadium for a game against York City Knights. They also played a game at the venue in both 2006 and 2007, and the club stated that they hoped in future to be able to play one game a year at Kingston Park. Dean Thomas guided Gateshead into the play-offs for two seasons running. He left the club at the end of the 2006 season and was replaced by former Castleford Tigers coach, Australian Dave Woods.

A New Beginning

The 2008 season wildly exceeded anyone's expectations, with Gateshead going unbeaten for much of the year and winning promotion to National League One for the 2009 season. It is widely expected that Gateshead will relocate to Kingston Park on a permanent basis from 2009 onwards with a view to reapplying and winning back their Super League place in the future.

2008 Squad


Player records

:"Correct to end of 2005 season."

* Most tries in a match: 5 by Andy Walker vs London Skolars 22 June 2003
* Most goals in a match: 11 by Ian Herron vs Wakefield Trinity Wildcats 5 September 1999
* Most points in a match: 26 by Ian Herron vs Wakefield Trinity Wildcats 5 September 1999
*Most tries in a season: 25 by Matt Daylight, 1999
*Most goals in a season: 105 by Ian Herron , 1999
*Most points in a season: 246 by Chris Birch, 2005
*Most career tries: 36 by Kevin Neighbour, 2001-date
*Most career goals: 137 by Paul Thorman, 2000-2004
*Most career points: 365 by Paul Thorman, 2000-2004
*Most career appearances: 115 by Steve Bradley, 1999-date

Team records

* Biggest victory: 66-6 vs Wakefield Trinity Wildcats 5 September 1999
* Worst Defeat: 110-12 at Salford City Reds, 23 March 2003
* Highest attendance: 6,631 vs Bradford Bulls, 16 May 1999


*National League Two Champions: 2008 "

External links

* [ Official Gateshead Thunder Website]
* [ Gateshead Thunder on youtube]
* [ National League website]
* [ Gateshead Thunder forum on]
* [ Gateshead Thunder Fans Forums -]
* [ Gateshead Thunder forum on]

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