This was always going to be an important year for Northumberland club Cramlington Rockets writes Jeff Ball.
Having been crowned National Rugby League Club of the Year in October 2017, the question the club’s leadership had to answer was: “What comes next?” The answer was, simply, more of the same.
International call ups were once again a theme for the club, with no fewer than seven players representing England Youth, Scotland U16s and U19s and Great Britain Pioneers.
Lewis Davey, also the captain of the Pioneers, had the honour of leading his side in the first ever international test match in Turkey. Another Rocket made his debut for Great Britain’s American Football U19s.
Closer to home, too, over 20 Rockets progressed to the Newcastle Thunder Academy and enjoyed a successful year that featured a number of Super League Academy scalps, including a famous win over Leeds Rhinos.
Two players made the step up to the first team, with Oliver Gowing in particular impressing and picking up Thunder U19s Players’ Player of the Year.
With the U16s becoming the first North East side to reach the Yorkshire Cup Final after finishing third in the Yorkshire Premier League, head coach Jordan Robinson was appointed coach of Scotland U16s. The club also reached three more finals and finished in the top four of the Men’s Premier League.
There were a number of individual honours across the year. U16 Alex Donaghy was named a Sport Newcastle Rising Star, an honour previously given to Jonny Wilkinson and Paul Gascoigne, adding to his Thunder U16s Players’ Player of the Year. Club-mate Mark Roberts picked up the Thunder U16s’ Coaches Player. Sarah Stephenson was named North East Volunteer of the Year for her work as Team Manager of the club’s U12s and Lochlann Thomson of that side was named North East U12s’ Player of the Year, reflecting his team’s victory in the Cup Final for a second year running.
A large part of the Rockets winning its national accolade was due to the work of its community team. Ambitious and innovative, one of its greatest achievements in 2018 was launching SENsational, a new programme bringing all its disability coaching under one umbrella.
Bellway Homes and Nando’s were notable additions to its roster of corporate partners with the Nando’s inspired Barci’s Buddies positive lifestyle programme a particular success, reaching 1,000 local children.
Events were also a big part of the Rockets’ presence in the community and Cramlington once again sold over 400 tickets to the Dacia Magic Weekend, their tangerine T-shirts illuminating St James’ Park, and its annual charity day for British Heart Foundation once again proved a success.
With the season coming to a close, the biggest highlight of the year was its part in Newcastle’s bid to be a host city for the 2021 World Cup. Having done so much to create a positive view of North East Rugby League in recent years, Chairman Jeff Ball was part of the bid team aiming to see the opening ceremony take place on Tyneside. We find out in January if it was successful.