UNDAUNTED Newcastle Thunder coach Chris Thorman says he and his inexperienced side have no reservations about a tough Challenge Cup third-round tie at Sheffield Eagles this weekend.
The resurrected North East club, who had looked set to fold at the end of last season amid financial concerns and following their relegation from the Championship, head to South Yorkshire after having lost 114-10 at home to York Knights in the 1895 Cup.
After visiting Sheffield, they have another tough-looking 1895 Cup group game, this time at home to Wakefield, on Sunday week, February 18.
But Thorman insisted: “They key thing is that we are here and playing these fixtures as we prepare for the new League One season.”
Thunder remain based at Kingston Park with former Super League halfback and York and Workington Town coach Thorman at the helm, but have lost the bulk of their squad from last year, when they finished bottom of the Championship.
The relaunched club didn’t get the green light from the RFL until December, meaning it was a race against time to assemble, never mind prepare, a side to face York.
Only five of the 17 on duty had played semi-professionally before, and Thorman told League Express: “With just the odd exception, the current squad is pretty much a mix of former Thunder Academy players, lads from the current youth system and students.
“We’d had only one training session out on the field as a group, so fair play to them, because they went out, showed bravery against a very good York side, and give it everything, and I’ve absolutely no doubt they will do the same against Sheffield.
“Effectively, these two cup competitions are the first part of our pre-season, and while they are really tough fixtures, there will be positives which come from them in terms of the experience gained by my players.”
Thunder’s League One campaign starts at home to Hunslet on Saturday, March 16, and Thorman continued: “By then, we’ll hopefully have added to the squad and strengthened it, and there will have been more time to work with the players in training.
“It’s obviously going to be a difficult season, there’s no hiding from that, but we are still here and we will be fulfilling fixtures with a team mainly made up of Geordies, which was always part of the Thunder vision.
“The plan is that this version of the club will be more sustainable, and I think the homegrown element will appeal to supporters up here, because Newcastle people love to see one of their own giving it real go.
“Our fans at the York game were great, because even though we were getting well beaten, they stuck with the team and created a good atmosphere.
“I think they understand where we are at the moment and see that we have a long-term plan to move forward. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, but we are all ready to do that.”