Thunder’s big youth policy is paying off

THE season may be over, but the work is still continuing for Gateshead Thunder coach Dave Woods who is keeping busy with the fledgling Under-18s side.

THE season may be over, but the work is still continuing for Gateshead Thunder coach Dave Woods who is keeping busy with the fledgling Under-18s side.

One of the first things introduced by Woods when he came to the club at the start of the year, the idea of the side is to make sure youngsters playing rugby league don’t cross codes when they are 15 years old because there is nowhere for them to play – something which happened in the past.

Woods is delighted with the progress the budding first-team players of the future – the 18s, as Woods calls them – are making.

The side only just lost their opening game and were also defeated by sides with much more experience in their last two matches, though the most recent game, at the weekend, was against an undefeated side from Oldham and Thunder were winning at the break.

“When we started everyone at the club thought the 18s would really struggle, but I was really surprised with the way they played,” said Woods. “In the first game they competed really well and only just got beaten, and at the weekend they were playing an undefeated side from a real rugby league town.

“But this team isn’t about winning games, it’s about their improvement and showing them what it’s like to play in a professional environment.

“They are obviously down when they have been beaten, but we’ve told them results don’t matter. I just want to see them improving and they have in the way they’re playing and training.”

After setting up the side, Woods has taken responsibility for their training schedules and they play off his game plans – meaning it is easier for them to step up to game the first team play. It is a lot of work, but the coach says it will pay dividends.

“The 18s are very important to us because they are the future of Gateshead Thunder,” he said. “We need to be able to throw in kids who can make the step up to the first team.

“It gives the kids an opportunity to go somewhere else other than rugby union. They are all from the North-East and we are getting some of them back from rugby union.

“We have a couple from Billingham who are doing really well and some from Durham – in fact the only one who isn’t from the North-East is my son, Scott.”

Any youngsters interested in joining the side should contact the club on 0191 433 5710.

The 18s are very important to us because they are the future of Gateshead Thunder – it will pay dividends

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