Last year’s National Championships proved a tough ask for the North East, in what was their home event in Newcastle.
This time out, they travel to Nottingham with a squad made up of competitors from eight different colleges, and hold strong hopes of medals in several events.
Last year’s result: 9th
Colleges representing the region in 2017: Gateshead College, Hartlepool College of Further Education, Hartlepool Sixth Form College, Middlesbrough College, Newcastle College, Prior Pursglove College, Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College, Tyne Met College
Star team: Newcastle College’s LD football squad has dominated the local scene since their return to competition almost three seasons ago. They train every Friday afternoon with Newcastle United Foundation at Walker Activity Dome, and usually send two teams to the monthly North East Colleges Disability League. At these events, the teams have distinguished themselves immensely with their behaviour and footballing prowess, winning every league meeting and culminating in winning the NECDL Trophy and Cup at the end of last season.
One of the Newcastle College LD players has since been selected to attend England FA Under-19 LD Football trials at the West Riding FA, and several players have joined Newcastle East End FC’s disability squad, with one individual winning their Most Improved Player award last season.
At the start of this season, Newcastle College took part at the AoC Sport regional tournaments, where they turned on the style to record resounding victories in every match, to prove themselves to be worthy representatives of the North East region at the National Championships at Nottingham.
“Newcastle College footballers are immensely proud to represent their region at such a prestigious national competition,” said Transition and Access Support Officer, Ian Brown.
“The boys clearly have a winning mentality, but good sportsmanship is at the forefront of their ethos. It is their aim to be recognized as true North East champions on the national stage for ability, teamwork, sportsmanship, and behaviour.”
Players Ben and Sam added: “It felt amazing after all the years of playing football with college to finally achieve going to the National Championships, after all the hard work we have put in as a team.”
One to watch: Middlesbrough College are taking a host of impressive table tennis players to Nottingham this year in Alec Ward, Joshua Harland and siblings Nuradin and Iman Muktar.
Josh and Nuradin are no strangers to the National Championships, having won silver medals last year in Newcastle, and will be keen to go one better this time around. And there are also strong hopes for Alec, who was selected in the England squad for the Junior Championships in Israel last year.
“Josh, Nuradin and Alec have been at the top of their game for a number of years now and hope to finish with one last medal before going to seniors next year,” said Andrew Jacomb, sports technician in the table tennis academy at Middlesbrough College.
Meanwhile, Iman will be taking part in her first AoC Sport National Championships, teaming up with Amy Webster from Hartlepool Sixth Form College in the women’s doubles.
Andrew added: “As a region, the North East hope to pull off a clean sweep of medals in the table tennis event, but as last year proved there are a few surprise entries to consider.”
National Championships veterans: After winning gold at the National Championships last year, the North East men’s rugby team from Hartlepool Sixth Form College will be strong contenders again in Nottingham.
Coach Chris Hyndman was forced to make several changes to last year’s successful squad for the regional tournaments, due to a number of his experienced players suffering injuries.
But his new group proved themselves well equipped to deal with tough competition from the likes of Darlington QE College, and once again qualified for the National Championships, where they will be looking to retain their title.
However, the success of his young squad, combined with the returned of his experienced heads, will pose coach Hyndman a few problems as Nottingham approaches.
“With the older more experience members back fit and the younger group doing so well in the qualifiers, picking a squad to travel down to Nottingham this year is going to be very tough,” he said.
“But nevertheless, we look forward to Nottingham and expect another year of tough competition.”
What they say: “I am delighted that Middlesbrough College has reached the AoC Sport National Championships again. With strong volleyball and table tennis academies, I am hopeful that we will return with some medals. If all the North East colleges can put in their best athletes and teams then we will certainly be coming back with some gold medals.”
David Goodchild – Head of Academies, Middlesbrough College