Current Gateshead coach Kevin Neighbour will always remember 2008 – Thunder’s most successful league campaign in their history.
Neighbour, who finished 2008 with 20 tries from 30 appearances, was part of an all-conquering Gateshead team that won National League Two by nine points.
Under Dave Woods’ direction, Thunder brought down a terrific season with a 22-18 win over Doncaster in front of a crowd of 1,751 at Newcastle’s Kingston Park.
Neighbour scored twice that night, and insists the memories of 2008 will stay him forever.
“I’ve got friends for life that were in that squad,” said Neighbour. “That’s something I’m trying to replicate now with our current squad.
“The togetherness we had and the bond that created… we felt like we were pretty invincible that year.”
He added: “We only lost three league games all season, and that was down to a lot of different reasons.
“A lot of preparation went into it before the season began, starting with the type of player being brought into the club being at a high level, and the momentum was built from the start.
“Our first game was away at York in the Northern Rail Cup. We won that, which was a bit of a shock, and we just carried on from there.”
But despite that encouraging start, Neighbour believes it took a defeat against Doncaster to convince the Thunder squad of their ability.
“That was the turning point and the moment we knew things could go well for us. We lost by five points but we realised what we could achieve, and from then on I just remember us building up a lot of momentum.
“We were 20-0 down in that game and in the end we only just got beat. They had a lot of established players in their side, and we realised that if we believed in ourselves, we could achieve whatever we wanted.”
And it was against Doncaster, in the final game of the season, that Thunder’s celebrations really began.
“That game really summed up our year,” said Neighbour. “We knew we could score, but we also prided ourselves on defending well. We’d be a real solidarity amongst us.
“When we actually showed that we could defend, that frustrated a lot of teams. They suddenly knew that we weren’t going to be giving them anything.”
It remains a special memory for Neighbour, who was first introduced to rugby league in an unorthodox manner.
“Chris Thorman’s dad brought a video into school – I think it was Great Britain v New Zealand – and I went down to Wallsend from there and met Paul and Neil (Thorman) and Steve Rutherford. I never looked back – it’s just a great sport.”