Payne eager for Trinity test

Newcastle Thunder coach Jason Payne is looking forward to seeing his new-look squad in match action for the first time.

The North-East side host Super League Wakefield Trinity on Saturday, January 19 and head to Oldham on Sunday, February 3 in preparation for the league opener against Doncaster at Kingston Park on Saturday, February 16.

“The season is getting closer and we’re ready to ramp things up after a Christmas break,” said Payne, whose side faced Castleford last January ahead of a campaign in which they finished eighth in the table, four points off the play-off places.

“Everything is geared towards being right for the Doncaster game, but the pre-season matches are important in their own right.

“The Wakefield match is a chance for me to see how things are coming together and a chance for the fans to see our new lads, as well as Super League players.”

Thunder’s recruits include former Wakefield halfback Liam Finn, and Payne believes the experience of the Ireland international, who has made more than 400 appearances for his six other clubs, will be a big plus, particularly in close matches.

“We sometimes struggled to manage games last season and it’s an area we’ve looked to address,” he explained. “Liam will certainly help us on that front.”

Thunder are to host the Challenge Cup first-round tie between local community side Wallsend Eagles and Great Britain Police on Saturday, January 26.