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Exclusive: Dennis Betts believes Newcastle Thunder could be competing to win Super League in 10 years

Newcastle Thunder are one of the most exciting clubs in the Championship and are doing great things for rugby league in the North East and Serious About Rugby League spoke to their stand-off and backrow Connor Bailey as well as Director of Rugby Dennis Betts ahead of their Easter clash with York City Knights.

Connor Bailey gave us his thoughts on the optimism around the club as well as how being based in the North East sets them apart from other clubs.

“Newcastle have the top pick of the local players, and young players getting first team experience is massive for the club as well as for the North East.

“With the club we’ve got and the players being brought through there’s no reason we couldn’t be in Super League in a few years. It’s about taking it season by season and seeing where it takes us.”

He also evaluated his side’s start to the season, as Newcastle sit seventh in the Championship after four wins from their opening seven league games.

“Widnes was a massive win for us, especially to get the victory on TV, but we’re not completely happy with our start to the season because we know what we’re capable of.”

“We don’t see why, with the team we’ve got, we can’t compete with sides like Featherstone and Leigh and go on to finish in the top half this year”

After eight years as Widnes head coach, Wigan legend Dennis Betts has taken on a role as Director of Rugby at Newcastle Thunder. He spoke to us about his aims for the club and how he believes the club can grow and benefit rugby league in the North East as a whole.

“We want to build a bigger talent pool up here. We’re generating a lot of interest in rugby league and lots of clubs are appearing around the North East, and the vision is to eventually develop top end Championship and Super League players”.

“We want to be the club of choice in this region, we want people to come and watch us so we can build a good support base. We’ve got a responsibility to bring fans in. Our base has got to be built around people that enjoy playing the game, and one of the remits of the club is to get engagement in the community.”

Newcastle Thunder share an owner and ground with rugby union side Newcastle Falcons, which is a connection that Dennis Betts said he felt was key for both clubs, particularly his relationship with Falcons director Dean Richards.

“I’ve known Dean Richards since his days as Director of Rugby at Leicester in the 90s, and there’s a really good partnership in place. We need to tap into the Rugby Union pathways and they need to tap into our pathways.

“We’re excited up here because we’re an outreach, we’re a little bit different to other rugby league clubs and people in the area know the sport but don’t fully know the club yet. Our job is to attract fans from the Falcons and branch out into local community clubs and give children players to look up to.

When speaking about where he wants to take the club, he made it very clear that they will not be limiting themselves in their ambitions: “We want to be in Super League in the next three or four years and competing to win it within the next 10.

“We’ve set some high targets but if you want to be involved then you have to be trying to get into Super League and then trying to win it from there. We knew that if we wanted to be competitive in the Championship then we had to make some changes.

“We needed to put our players into a full-time environment to get the best out of them and we’re at the start of a work in progress.”

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