Newcastle point the way for West Wales Raiders

GARETH WALKER, the Championship correspondent of League Express, believes that West Wales Raiders should take comfort from the way Newcastle Thunder responded to a some heavy beatings a few years ago.

ONE scoreline dominated discussion across all three divisions last weekend.
York’s record 144-0 annihilation of West Wales Raiders might have been the latest marker in the Knights’ impressive progress, but it hardly reflected well on their fledging opponents.
It was the latest in a series of heavy scorelines against the Raiders, who also had to postpone their opening match against Newcastle shortly before kick-off because the correct medical supplies weren’t at the ground.
But Thunder themselves are a shining example of why we shouldn’t just give up on West Wales – who relocated the old South Wales Ironmen from Merthyr to Llanelli – on the back of a few results.
Back in 2010, what was then Gateshead Thunder were beaten 132-0 by Blackpool.
That same season, they also conceded 100 at Batley in the Challenge Cup, 94 at Swinton, and over 50 points 17 times.
Fast forward to today, and Thunder regularly attract crowds approaching 1,000, have a junior set-up and are bidding for a second straight play-off place.
Their coach is Jason Payne, and his tweet on Sunday night offered a unique piece of perspective into that West Wales scoreline, recounting his own experience in the 132-0 loss against Blackpool.
“I played in that game, they were tough times and people used to question the point in us being in the league,” Payne wrote.
“With the right people we found a way to be competitive. Feel for WWR as been in that position but applaud what they are trying to do down there.”
Payne’s opinion is shared by this writer.
Rather than condemn the people who are doubtless working tirelessly to establish rugby league in a difficult area, those involved at West Wales Raiders should be offered more support in the hope they can replicate the progress that has been made in Newcastle.
In the current issue of Rugby League World there’s a two-page feature on Raiders and their coach Jon Ellis, which although written before Sunday’s game, remains relevant when assessing their long-term prospects.
Ellis said: “Our aim is to play local lads, week in week out, and of course it’s going to take time to establish the club at different age levels, establish pathways for players and build a competitive team.
“But we all know where we are and we have to be patient, and everyone connected with the club is in it for the long haul.
“It’s about taking small steps and we are doing that.
“Yes the first months have been tough, and yes there have been teething problems and mistakes, but we are on a learning curve and we have held our hands up.”
I for one hope the Raiders can find a way forward in coming months.

Gareth Walker writes his Championship Focus column every Monday in League Express.