Magic Weekend: Proud return for only Geordie in Super League

Chris Thorman
Chris Thorman
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FINDING a Geordie of note to talk about the forthcoming Magic Weekend in Newcastle is not the easiest of tasks.

There have been very few professional players who hail from the city which is perhaps no great surprise given the way football is king in those parts.

The nearest it has come to having a Super League presence was the nearby Gateshead Thunder project which, while unearthing a star in Irish student Brian Carney and attracting some stellar Australians in 1999, lasted just a solitary year before being swallowed in the ‘merger’ with Hull.

All of which means Chris Thorman, the former Sheffield Eagles, Huddersfield Giants and Hull stand-off, has been a man in demand this week.

Undoubtedly, he is a success story emanating from Newcastle and, therefore, the perfect person to talk to with regard to Super League’s six-game bonanza heading to the Toon after previous stints in Cardiff, Edinburgh and, latterly, Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium.

But as Huddersfield’s assistant coach explained to The Yorkshire Post: “I’ve probably done more interviews in the last few weeks than I have in the whole of the last two years.

“I have been a little bit busy. I do think I’m the only Geordie to ever play Super League.

“People have asked me why there’s not more of us and I’ve struggled to answer.

“The infrastructure in the north-east is definitely much better now than when I started out and I had to up sticks and move to Sheffield Eagles.

“There just wasn’t anything in place then but now, with the scholarships, the (RFL’s) north-east Academy, Gateshead Thunder changing their name to Newcastle and linking with Newcastle Falcons, everything is geared up for there to be more Geordies coming through.

“We just have to keep going at it. The athletes in the north-east are as good as anywhere so there’s no reason why we can’t have more in Super League soon.”

Seeing Newcastle United open their doors for Magic Weekend, too, is another obvious step in the right direction.

Thorman added: “It’s the first time the city has hosted anything like this but Geordies are very passionate about sport.

“The football side haven’t had a great season and rugby league – and Magic Weekend – offers something different.

“It probably still needs some tweaking; now promotion and relegation is back, the fact clubs play one side three times instead of two doesn’t sit right with me but to have it at St James’ Park is just a dream come true for me.

“The place is an absolute sporting cathedral; the atmosphere and buzz here is something really special and I have lots of memories as a kid of coming here to watch Alan Shearer and people like that.

“I’m sure the city will embrace rugby league this weekend and I am looking forward to it, hopefully maybe even going along as a fan on Saturday to see the Hull derby and Leeds v Wigan before our game against Catalans Dragons on Sunday.”

Thorman, 34, played rugby league at school where one of his classmates was Michael Carrick, the Manchester United and England midfielder, who has a keen interest in the sport and is regularly seen at Old Trafford on Grand Final night.

“We were together at Burnside Community High School and he was a good athlete,” recalled the Wallsend-born coach, who has been assisting Huddersfield chief Paul Anderson since unusually opting to retire early from playing at the end of 2012.

“Michael might be a centre midfielder now but I actually played there at school and he was up front scoring loads of goals.

“He played on the wing at rugby league and is still a big fan of the sport. He invested at Gateshead Thunder a few years back as we had a few old friends there.

“Hopefully, he’ll be at Magic Weekend. I know he likes going to games and, hopefully, he can bring some more of his Manchester United mates which would be great to see. I know Wayne Rooney loves his rugby league and a few others.”

Thorman, who captained Huddersfield in the 2006 Challenge Cup final and also played for a season in the NRL with Parramatta Eels, is expecting a tough game from Catalans.

“People say they struggle to play away from the south of France but any side that can put 58 points past Wigan, like they did last week, well, they demand respect,” he said.

“They are a big team bossed around by two of the best halves (Todd Carney and Scott Dureau) in the competition.

“We have to be at our best and we will have a look at what they’re doing but, that said, it is more about us. We’ll be focusing on playing with a bit of structure and also getting some good honesty into our game.”

Huddersfield are unbeaten in their last five league games – a run that started with a 38-14 victory over Sunday’s opponents and is only splintered by a Challenge Cup defeat to Leeds Rhinos.