ENGINEERING student Alexander “Sandy” Rae has joined one of the North-East’s leading rugby league teams.

The 18-year-old, from Brancepeth, has joined Newcastle Thunder for the coming season.

Rae, who studies at Northumbria University, began playing rugby union at school and took up league with Durham Tigers as a means of keeping fit during the close season.

He said: “I started playing rugby union and was brought up on that until I was about 12, but all my mates were playing rugby league and got me into it as a summer thing. I really enjoyed it and dropped union to concentrate on league”.

When the Tigers folded, Rae switched to first Peterlee Pumas and then Durham Demons.

He said: “When I was at Peterlee, I was still a union lad playing there for fitness but I was seen by the coaches from what was then North East Thunder and they asked me to come and to train with them. It was once a week to start with but I’ve gone on from there.

“My Dad took me everywhere, without him I wouldn’t be able to play rugby and do what I have done. It wasn’t just a bus ride away to Peterlee from where I live out in Brancepeth

“He was the person who got me into rugby to start with. He played rugby union, but when I started playing rugby league, he converted too.”

Last year, Rae trained with Hull Academy and was named coach’s player of the year at the North East Rugby League end-of-season awards.

His progress was so spectacular he has now been offered a senior contract with Thunder for the coming year.

He said: “It was a bit of a surprise to get the contract on the night of the awards.

Thunder rang me before so I got a little bit of warning. I was hoping that something would come for this year and I was really happy when it did.

“I’m getting to train with some really good players, I feel like I am learning every week. I’m training with the first team as a full member of the squad, but because I’m still able to play for the 19s, if I’m not involved with the firsts, then I’ll be part of that team.

“It’s a good atmosphere and everyone gets along which makes it more enjoyable. This year I just want to prove myself in training, learn more about the sport and hopefully, eventually get some games.

“It looks like it’s going to be a really good year. From the start, everyone seems to have clicked within just a few sessions. I’ve never seen that everything just looking really slick and coming off. The training is hard but everyone is keeping going and working hard so it should be a pretty solid year.”