The annual under-15 Developing Player Programme finale took place at Kingston Park Stadium on Sunday November 18.
Named the GASP Festival because we are looking to find players who make you gasp for breath, the event is a showcase of the best talent the region has to offer and is the first opportunity for players to be identified for the Falcons Academy pathway.
Over 250 of the best young players represented the 10 centres of excellence from across the region in the 12-a-side festival. All the players got to play on the Newcastle Falcons first team pitch and as part of their social development they were put into mixed teams so they could meet and play with people from different places and backgrounds. The coaches of the squads were also rotated so the players got to experience some of the best development coaches in the region, with each team supported by a current Falcons senior academy player.
As additional elements to this year’s festival over 200 parents attended a player pathway presentation delivered by academy head coach James Ponton and Northumberland DPP manager Lawrence Patton, and each team went to a strength and conditioning workshop with academy strength and conditioning coach Michael Ferguson during the day.
The event came one week after our inaugural Developing Player Programme evening at the Newcastle Falcons v Bath Premiership Cup game.
Over 100 players, coaches and their families attended an exclusive evening that included a pie and peas supper, a presentation from academy manager Mark Laycock and Cumbria DPP manager Keith Robinson, and after the game an exclusive question and answer session with Dean Richards and Dave Walder.
Academy manager Mark Laycock said “The Developing Player Programme is a genuine interface between the community game and the aspirational pathway, and gives players exposure to higher level training and games.
“It is the first step on the ladder towards the academy here at Newcastle and it has been great to see so many youngsters playing with freedom and expressing themselves. It is also brilliant that we have so many keen and enthusiastic coaches giving up their time to support these players on their journey.
“A huge number of volunteers assist with the programme and the running of events like these and we are extremely grateful for the work they do. As we extend our reach into the DPP network we hope that future events will be even bigger and better, and in the long run might produce the next Mark Wilson."