Thunder building for the future

Gateshead Thunder face another huge test when Featherstone Rovers come to the International Stadium, boasting former Super League players in their ranks.

Gateshead Thunder face another huge test when Featherstone Rovers come to the International Stadium, boasting former Super League players in their ranks.

With Thunder still in their first season of transition with Dave Woods looking to build a side capable of competing, tomorrow's visitors illustrate the size of the task facing the new coaching team.

"That's what we're battling against week in, week out - that kind of experience," said the Australian coach, who is looking for a huge improvement from his side after a 58-12 defeat against Swinton last time out.

"That's why we need to make sure our standard is consistently high and we aren't making silly mistakes.

"I'm definitely looking for an improved performance from the side this weekend and it won't be hard to get a better performance than the one against Swinton.

"We just didn't take anything we'd done on the training field to the game and made mistakes which meant we turned over the ball far too much and had to do a lot of defending."

A great win against York in the opening game of the season led to expectations from many that Thunder would be real contenders this season.

While the realistic coach knows that will not be happening immediately, he is hoping the introduction of an under-18s side will help Thunder become contenders in the future.

As part of the transformation of the club, Woods and the team have offered to oversee coaching of youngsters in a professional manner which has not been available in the past - with the players competing in the Under-18s National Youth League.

And after getting in touch with junior clubs in the region, the first session saw an encouraging 30 aspiring stars of the future attend.

While not a real academy - with players getting paid when they appear in league matches - Woods believes this is the first step towards Thunder being able to produce players.

"This is something we needed at the club because what happened in the past was youngsters left school, had nowhere to go and drifted into rugby union," he said.

"Then they drift back to us when they are older and want to play first team footy. Hopefully this team will make sure these youngsters keep playing rugby league."

Thunder (home v Featherstone Rovers): Neil Thorman, Robin Peers, Graham Stevenson, Pat Williamson, Odell Harris, Mark Christensen, Kevin Til, Steven Bradley, Nick Hyde, Clint Frazer, Dylan Nash, Shane Wooden, Stephen Rutherford, Jonny Scott, Ryan Clarke, Richie Metcalfe, Chris Parker.

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