Seven talented rugby league students scrummed down on the national stage when a Combined Regional Academies side took on the mighty Aussies.
Wallsend prop Sam Luckley, Patrick Hargreaves, Lewis Davey, Lewis Thompson, Zach Clark, Alex Bielby and Daniel Bleek – all from Gateshead College – were selected for England Combined Regional Academies to face Australian Schoolboys at Derwent Park in Workington. The historic fixture was the first match of the Aussies’ tour of England and France, which will take in two test matches with England RL Academy on 6th and 12th December and two fixtures in France.
Despite being on the wrong end of a 6-86 scoreline, the students put in a strong performance and Lewis Davey was named man of the match by the team from Down Under.
The students got the opportunity to represent their country after excelling during the Regional Academy’s season in the Kingstone Press Championship Under-23s competition. Zach and Daniel recently joined Lewis Davey and Sam by signing first team contracts at Gateshead Thunder, having come to the end of their time within the North East Thunder Regional Academy. They come from Jarrow Vikings, Peterlee Pumas, Cramlington Rockets and Wallsend Eagles respectively, whilst Alex is a product of Durham Tigers. Patrick plays for Whitley Bay Barbarians and Cramlington Rockets is Lewis Thompson’s club.
The magnificent seven are all studying on Gateshead College’s Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence (AASE) programme, run by The Rugby Football League’s North East Thunder Regional Academy, which allows them to develop their rugby league talent and acquire generic skills such as preparation, planning, teamwork and leadership. The students will gain an NVQ Level 3 Achieving Excellence in Sports Performance and develop a high-performance training plan to support their health and fitness regimes at their respective clubs.
Lewis Davey, who trains at the Rugby League Performance Centre at the college’s Academy for Sport, said: “It was a great achievement to be selected for the Combined Regions squad. Although we suffered a heavy defeat, it was a great experience to play against such high-quality opposition and I’m sure all of the lads learned some valuable lessons.
“Studying at Gateshead College and being part of the Academy for Sport has helped me to hone my rugby skills which I can now use to good effect on the pitch. It has given me a good grounding for a career in sport.”
The Rugby League Performance Centre is open to any student regardless of whether or not they are studying for a sports qualification. Students receive high quality coaching, strength and conditioning support, nutritional advice, as well as access to physiotherapy and sports massage services.
It is a regular base for rugby league coach Michael Heap as well as strength and conditioning coaches Martin Nugent and Jon Mason, who helped prepare the ECRA side for the Australia game.
Michael Heap said: “We don’t just prepare the students for rugby league; we prepare them for life and a career in sport if that’s the path they choose. The seven students who made it into the ECRA side deserve a lot of credit and the experience will help their development.
“Their training at the Regional Academy has given them the opportunity to fulfil their potential and showcase their skills on the national stage.
For further information on Gateshead College’s Rugby League Academy, visit www.academyforsport.co.uk or call 0191 490 2447.