Newcastle Falcons share their vision at fans’ forum

Tuesday 13 June 2023 Written by: Adam

The well-attended evening in Kingston Park’s West Stand saw the trio giving an overview of their vision for the club as well as answering supporters’ questions.

Chair of foundation Melanie Magee presented on the outstanding work of Falcons Community, with the club also announcing the signing of Argentina prop Eduardo Bello.

Codling spoke about his excitement at taking on the role, having helped Oyonnax win the French Pro D2 title. The former England lock outlined the make-up of his first day of the club, which included weights training at Newcastle University’s new state-of-the-art sports centre as well as skills, fitness and meetings at Kingston Park.

Asked about the team’s playing style he insisted the group would show an incredible work ethic and look to play entertaining, winning rugby based on a core of homegrown players. He hopes to add a defence coach in the coming days and spoke of the positive early impressions of the existing coaching staff of Mark Laycock and Micky Ward.

Codling stressed how much he is relishing the challenge of uniting a diverse group of players and coaches around a common cause, stating: “You go above and beyond your own ability when you feel part of something and have a real shared connection.”

His two years in France have helped him develop as a coach and a person, and the increased ball-in-play time of the modern game was one facet he highlighted around how the team will look to develop for the season ahead.

“Connecting with people” was repeatedly picked out as an important aspect for him and the wider club, and the head coach spoke of the “unbelievable quality” within the group and the importance of making Kingston Park a tough place for opposition teams to come to.

Building confidence was highlighted as a key work-on during the summer, as well as clarity around how the team will be playing. Injuries and refereeing decisions are largely outside of your control, but knowing your role and the team’s strategy inside-out can make a huge difference.

The club will play the majority of home games on Fridays and Sundays aside from the usual TV picks dictating otherwise, and there were a number of off-field questions for Thompson and Kurdi.

Both highlighted their sadness at the loss of Worcester, Wasps and London Irish after a “turbulent” few years, with Kurdi stating “it finally feels like covid is behind us” despite the obvious ongoing challenges.

Thompson spoke about the need for the club to cut its cloth given the financial landscape across the game, explaining the mid-season departure of a number of players while under contract. George McGuigan had been offered a contract extension but rejected it, while Trevor Davison’s agent had contacted the club requesting an increased deal despite the player being under contract for another season.

Given the facts around both situations and the offer of transfer fees from other clubs Thompson stressed it made financial sense for the players to move on, with an England international Jamie Blamire stepping up at hooker and an Argentina international prop joining in Eduardo Bello.

Thompson and Kurdi both thanked all the coaches who departed the club last season and credited them for their good work, but welcomed a new voice in Codling as head coach and the increased connection between the rugby department and wider club.

The success of Newcastle United’s Women’s team playing at Kingston Park was highlighted when asked about non-rugby streams of revenue, as well as the successful Falcons Events team earning off-site contracts at Hexham Racecourse and many other major venues around the region.

Kurdi was asked about his own continued involvement and whether recent events in the game had changed it, replying that everyone in all walks of life has good days and bad days, but he continues to have a desire to help the club become successful. Gradual growth is being targeted in attendance terms, with Kurdi stressing this can be affected by on-field performance as well as updated facilities and an improved match-day offering.

Kurdi picked out the importance of Thompson in providing a link between the rugby department and the board, and when asked about the salary cap the chairman stressed the need to keep the Premiership competitive rather than a small number of clubs running away with it every season.

A supporter was applauded for saying the board deserve a pat on the back for publicly stating the need to cut their cloth accordingly, despite some negative chatter received on social media and in the press for doing so. Thompson replied by saying the board would continue to support Codling where possible in giving the team the best possible environment, but that restraint has to be exercised given recent events which have seen a number of clubs disappearing.

An open and honest Q&A touched on other themes including whether or not more England games will be played in the North East. Kurdi acknowledged the RFU had taken a financial hit in moving an England game to St James’ Park in 2019 and Thompson stated the Red Roses might have outgrown venues of Kingston Park’s size with their increased recent profile, but both remained supportive of the need to share national-team games with the region, even if is Under-20s or second-string senior sides.

Kurdi reiterated that the Falcons had bid for a Premier 15s franchise the last two times but were rejected in the process, with Thompson stating the very early stages of a North-East Barbarians-style women’s team had been discussed, although there was nothing confirmed.

Kurdi stressed his long-term desire to develop the North and East Stands at Kingston Park, admitting however that it was not feasible in the short term given the continued financial challenges surrounding the game as the club looks to build back from a “tough few years”.

Kurdi and Thompson unequivocally squashed rumours that the Falcons had planned to volunteer for relegation to the Championship, with the latter insisting the Falcons are an “easy target” but will continue to fight their corner. The only way to prove people wrong is by winning on the field and growing as a club, said Kurdi.

Codling was asked about his sporting hero and picked out England test cricket captain Ben Stokes for his approach to the game, although he advised supporters not to expect ‘Baz-ball’ at Kingston Park!

The importance of role models was highlighted by the head coach, with local talent like Adam Radwan and Jamie Blamire among the names mentioned.

The incredible work ethic of the players, coaches, support staff and wider club was emphasised on a number of occasions, with the panel receiving hearty applause at the end of a candid Q&A session.

The club would once again like to thank all supporters who attended on the night or offered comments on social media. Your enthusiasm is infectious and we look forward with tremendous excitement to the coming campaign.

Season tickets for 2023-24 are available by [**clicking here**][1].