Newcastle Thunder prop Nathan Wilde believes the club has the foundations in place to achieve their Super League ambitions.
The 21-year-old front-rower joined the ambitious north east club from hometown club Wigan ahead of the 2021 campaign.
Wilde’s last game for Wigan came in the 2019 Academy Grand Final as he helped the Warriors beat St Helens. The former England Youth international also scooped the Academy Player of the Year and Fans’ Player of the Year awards in his final season at the club.
Wilde has been given the number eight shirt at Thunder this season and is enjoying his time at Kingston Park so far.
He said: “Playing in the Championship is a lot different. I’ve never really played against blokes who have played a high number of senior games.
“It is a big test for me but it is only going to make me a better player. I’m getting stuck in and I’m getting some decent minutes under my belt so it is all experience for me.”
Learning from the Betts
Wilde says a big factor in his decision to join Newcastle was the opportunity to work under director of rugby Denis Betts and head coach Eamon O’Carroll.
He added: “I was coming to the end of my deal with Wigan so my agent was having a look around and Newcastle came up and I spoke to Denis Betts about going up there and it was exciting to be a part of so it was a no-brainer for me.
“Denis and Eamonn are very well-known in the game so it was great for me and there are some good lads at the club.
“I like what Denis had to say and it was exciting for me because going into the Championship was on the cards for the club at the time as well. They were in League 1 at the time I was talking to them but they won their bid to go into the Championship so they made the jump up and playing Championship rugby is exciting in itself.
“Eamon does a lot for my game and he is always trying to help me. He is always giving me advice and I take as much as I can on board and it is great to get tips from a former front-rower who knows a lot more than I do.”
18 months in waiting
Players up and down the country long dreamt of a return to action, but for Wilde, that wait has been longer than most. The prop suffered a back injury whilst in Wigan’s reserves and then the pandemic struck as he was regaining his fitness, which resulted in an 18-month absence from playing.
Wilde, a former Golborne Parkside and Wigan St Judes junior player, made his comeback in Newcastle’s Challenge Cup defeat to Swinton back in March.
He added: “I worked it out from when I had last played to our first game back against Swinton in the Challenge Cup, and it was 18 months for me without playing a game. It was injuries coupled with the pandemic.
“My lungs and legs were tested in that first game but I loved it. I feel like I’m getting stuck in now and I’m enjoying it.”
Super League ambitions
Thunder have made no secret of their Super League ambitions, with the club declaring in 2019 that they are aiming to be crowned Super League champions by 2030.
And with a top level coaching setup, state of the art facilities and lofty expectations, Wilde is confident that the club has the fundamentals to mount a challenge at the top.
He said: “I think when it got shared on social media I was reading some comments that said it isn’t realistic but with the way the club is going I can see it happening.”
Newcastle has already played host to Super League’s Magic Weekend in recent years, and the Rugby League World Cup will kick-off at St James’ Park this autumn when England take on Samoa in the opening game.
Wilde believes the city can take the game to a wider audience.
He said: “It is a perfect opportunity to grow the game. It is a no-brainer for the game, Newcastle is a great place.
“I’ve not had a proper chance to explore it yet because of the Covid situation but hopefully I’ll have chance to check it out soon.
“Newcastle is an exciting city in itself so I think it will increase the game and with the Falcons (rugby union) playing there, it is always going to boost the game. I think some Falcons fans like to stay behind for our games so that’ll be exciting. The facilities are top of the range.”
Wilde, who travels up to the north east with several Lancashire-based players, is looking forward to playing in front of fans for the first time at Kingston Park.
He added: “I can’t wait for it. The fans are always great on social media after a game.
“Over the past couple of weeks we’ve had some of the highest Our League viewings in the Championship and that just shows the club are doing something right and it’s great to see.”