Expansionist blog: Alnwick on the move as North East rugby league continues to grow

James Gordon

A genuine legacy of the Magic Weekend can be found in the North East, as rugby league continues to develop at pace at grassroots level.

They boast a former RFL Community Club of the Year in Cramlington Rockets, whose very own Jeff Ball is both passionate and relentless in flying the flag for the development of the game in the area.

With the genuine need and desire to expand the footprint of rugby league, it’s not always just about money – but about developing players and expanding the game in communities.

According to figures released at the back end of last season, there are now 1,376 registered players in the north east, an increase of 40% since Magic Weekend first went to Newcastle.

The success of its work can already be seen at an international level, with former Cramlington juniors Alex Donaghy and Isaac Nokes having gained recognition with selection for England Academy against Wales in the autumn.

Another club, Northumberland-based Alnwick Bears, have now moved into the centre of the historic town of Alnwick at the Alnwick Adult Learning Centre, formerly Lindisfarne Middle School.

Set up in 2018, the club had previously been based at Longhoughton, four miles to the east. While the club has enjoyed a successful start to life, the move closer to the town centre is seen as integral to the club’s growth plans.

To celebrate the move, the club is offering a free Saturday morning taster session to all 5-11 year olds.

Chairman Steve Beaty said: “We have thoroughly enjoyed our time at Longhoughton Community Centre. Longhoughton is a special place and will always be the location wear the Bears were born.

“This move allows us to be closer to the local community and allow us to share our plans for the future with more people.”

With teams for 5-11 year olds, the Bears train every Saturday morning 9-10am, playing friendlies and festivals as part of the North East Rugby League structure.

“We are really pleased with our new facilities” continued Beaty. “Being a former school, there is a big grass area and plenty of facilities. We are at most 5 minutes from anywhere in Alnwick, making it really accessible for everyone.”

The club was formed in 2018 due to high demand for rugby league in Northumberland following the success of sister club, Cramlington Rockets.

There are now 15 community clubs in the north east, including the newest Newcastle Magpies – who can stake a claim for the best logo and kit in rugby league.