Newcastle Thunder coach Stanley Gene is getting excited ahead of the start to his club’s season.
The North East outfit have recruited heavily in the close season, with three of their new players joining from Gene’s homeland of Papua New Guinea.
Although the League One campaign does not start until the beginning of April, Gene thinks that there is a real buzz around rugby league in the North East at present.
“We’re excited because there’s a lot of changes at the club,” he told Love Rugby League.
“The season ticket sales have gone up even before a ball was kicked.
“Training sessions have been brilliant, and there’s more players wanting to come up to play for Newcastle.
“Last year, we struggled to look for players to bring in, and had to bring in a couple of kids from Hull KR.
“It’s still a waiting game though, as we have to wait until April.”
The PNG legend is looking forward to the excitement throughout the league pyramid that the new restructure will bring.
“It gives us a chance to watch some Super League,” he said, when asked about the delay until the start of the League One campaign.
“It’s a very exciting year now, the Championship has some very interesting games to watch too, and hopefully with this format it gives you interesting games to watch, even in League One.”
That new restructure also gives Newcastle a chance to fulfil some ambitions and climb the league pyramid. Gene thinks that success could be brewing in the North East, but he and his players must work hard to achieve it.
He also believes that Super League rugby would do well in Newcastle one day.
“We’ve got a new owner who has come in and he has got his plans,” he said.
“As a player you want to better yourself and play at a higher level, and personally, I think we need a Super League club in the North East, definitely in Newcastle.
“But you don’t just get it, you have to work your way up, you need sweat and hard work to get there.
“It’s going to be a tough year, we can’t forget that six years ago Gateshead were fighting right at the bottom of the table.
“Last year, without an expectation, we came and finished fourth, with not many experienced players around.
“This year we have recruited really well. We had to, because four teams dropped down from the Championship.
“As long as we can improve from last year, I’ll be happy.”
Gene has also learned from his long career in the game that an important ingredient for success is found in players’ heads.
“It’s all about the winning mentality, and that’s the culture I want at the club,” he said.
“A lot of boys have been there for the last six years, and they’re not used to the winning mentality and the belief in themselves.
“That’s what I’m trying to instil in them.”