Gateshead Thunder got their Championship One rugby league season underway with a win over Oxford yesterday, but the talk in the stands surrounded their longer-term future.
The club’s official supporters’ trust yesterday issued a statement confirming a unanimous vote in favour of selling their shares in Gateshead Thunder, The Journal having last week revealed Newcastle Falcons’ intention to take over the club and move them to Kingston Park.
With neither the Falcons nor Thunder saying anything official it has been left to the back-channels to provide a drip-drip flow of information, the latest morsel of which is that Thunder could remain at Gateshead International Stadium unless the Falcons can extend their Kingston Park lease, which expires in 2017.
Rugby Football League regulations are understood to require longer-term security than the current three-and-a-half years left on Newcastle’s Kingston Park tenancy, a potential obstacle which would be removed should the Falcons agree an extension.
Sources also indicated the ‘Thunder’ suffix would remain regardless of which venue they played in, the on-field the issues less clouded as Gateshead kicked on from 14-13 down at half-time to surge home.
First-half tries from Tom Capper and Joe Brown had them on their way, half-backs Matt Beharrell and Carl Puckering marshalling the kicking game from hand and tee.
The second half was one-way traffic once Oxford had scored a pair of early tries, Sam Lynch crossing in the right corner.
Captain Jason Payne plundered a 12-minute hat-trick as Thunder hammered the left edge, Brown and Beharrell also finding their way over.
Chris Heil added the ninth in a performance of great promise.