Josh Woods on Newcastle Thunder ambitions, captaincy & expansion

Drew Darbyshire
Josh Woods Newcastle Thunder

Josh Woods signed a new two-year deal with Newcastle in the off-season

Josh Woods is loving life right now – being made Newcastle Thunder captain, back in a full-time environment and enjoying city life with his best mates.

The 24-year-old is about to enter his second season with Thunder, having made the move to the north east from Super League giants Wigan.

Woods impressed during his time at Kingston Park in 2021, so much so that he was given the captaincy role by head coach Eamon O’Carroll for this season.

“It is a massive honour for me and my family. I’m absolutely buzzing with it,” Woods told Love Rugby League.

“It could have been any one of seven or eight leaders. We’ve got leaders across the park which has made my life so much easier this year. We’ve got Ukuma Ta’ai, Jake Shorrocks and Sam Hallas who are good leaders so I think its going to be a great year for us.

“I’m living with Mitch Clark and Craig Mullen and I’m loving it here. You are spending everyday with your best mates. I can’t say a bad word about anyone in the city, everyone has made me feel really welcome. It’s a great place to be.

“Everyone is living together so it is like we are all best mates. Everyone is with each other a lot, so the team spirit we’ve got is one of the best I’ve been involved with in my time playing rugby.”

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Thunder happy to go about their business quietly

Josh Woods Newcastle
Josh Woods in action for Newcastle last season

The Championship is set to be one of the most competitive seasons we’ve seen. Big spenders Featherstone and Leigh are the bookmakers favourites to gain promotion to Super League, with Halifax, Bradford, York and Newcastle as slight outsiders.

Woods believes Thunder, who have gone full-time ahead of this season, can compete with the best in 2022.

He added: “I think we’ve got a good squad on paper but nothing is a given in the Championship. I’ve played in this league now for a number of years and I know you win nothing on paper.

“We’ve got our in-house goals that we know about but it is going to be a challenge. Any game in the Championship can go either way but it’s going to be an exciting season. I think we can shock a few teams.

“We’ve got Super League standard players across the park. We’ve got Ukuma Ta’ai, Sam Hallas, Craig Mullen, Jake Shorrocks, Josh Eaves – we’ve got players who have played Super League so I don’t see why we can’t compete.

“We will go about our business quietly and not make a big deal about anything. I think any game that we go into this year, there is no reason why we can’t win.”

GROWTH: Why Newcastle can create the blueprint for expansion success

Growing the game

St James' Park Newcastle
St James’ Park, home of Newcastle United FC, hosts Super League’s Magic Weekend

Woods believes the sport can go from strength to strength in the north east; the club are now going into schools spreading the rugby league gospel to the younger generation in the region.

He added: “Toulouse and Catalans are in Super League now and us and London are in the Championship, which is away from the M62 corridor we keep talking about.

“Everyone sees what it is like in Newcastle when they come up to the Magic Weekend. Newcastle is by far the best Magic Weekend you get, it is a great city with great people. I think if we can grow it in this region then it could really take off.

“The fans in Newcastle support their own and when they latch onto something they really go for it. It is going to be exciting to see how we grow this year and in years to come.

“We are going into primary schools and high schools just to sell our name and do some coaching with some young people. Hopefully we can get them on board and get them coming to games.

“We are trying to grow the game as much as we can up here and hopefully it will take off and we get more fans through the gate.”

READ MORE: How Newcastle Thunder are shaping up for 2022