YORK Knights head coach Andrew Henderson is pleased that Newcastle Thunder have managed to get to the start line ahead of the sides’ season opener at Kingston Park tomorrow afternoon (3pm).

It’s been a tumultuous off-season for Thunder, who announced their resignation from competition following their relegation from the Betfred Championship at the end of last season.

But new chairman Keith Christie ensured that supporters had a very merry Christmas when his business plan - formed with a group of volunteers - was accepted and the club’s re-introduction to the sport’s third tier ratified at the end of 2023.

Recognising the perils of rugby league that have seen the likes of clubs including London Skolars and West Wales Raiders withdraw from competition over recent years, Henderson praised the work of those behind the scenes for ensuring that tomorrow's AB Sundecks 1895 Cup opener can go ahead.

“They obviously looked like they were going to cease to exist at one point, so they’ve done a tremendous job there,” he enthused.

“Hat’s off to Keith Christie and the rest of the people behind the scenes up there that have managed to rally around, and also to the supporters that have backed it, and Chris Thorman who has stayed loyal to coach the team.

“We’re really pleased that Newcastle have managed to get to the start line.”

Whilst head coach Thorman will remain in charge for 2024, Newcastle have seen their squad plundered by their competitors.

The Knights have completed a triple swoop to sign Nikau Williams, Connor Bailey and Alex Donaghy, winger Gideon Boafo has joined London Broncos for their first season back in the Betfred Super League, and Jack Miller will line up against them this season after returning to Keighley Cougars, to name but a few.

Christie last week told League Express that the club had received a good response from prospective players and that they would be tapping into university students for their 2024 playing squad, but as Henderson admits, it is hard to predict just what challenge the Knights will face in the North East.

“I guess that you don’t know what sort of side they’ll have out,” he said.

“I don’t know what their recruitment’s been like, but one thing I do know is that they’ll be well coached and they’ll give a good account of themselves. 

“We’re under no false illusions come Saturday, we’ve got to show them the respect that they deserve. They’re a great club, and they’re going to compete hard.

“But we’ve got to make sure that we worry about ourselves and try to just deliver a performance that we’re happy with and to our standards. 

“Then, hopefully the result takes care of itself and we can progress.”