Club Chairman, Trevor Nicholson writes...
May I start this report by thanking every single person for everything you do for our Club; there are hundreds of volunteers in both the junior and senior sections stepping up for Sevenoaks Rugby. One Club!
This year I have asked some key people for their personal recollections of a fantastic season both on and off the pitch; the atmosphere at Knole Paddock is as good as I have known it in 38 years, and often enviously commented upon by our visitors. Updates from Jonny, Patrick, Adam, Danny and Fitzy follow below.
Our commitment to the amateur mantra continues; we want to be one of the best amateur rugby clubs in the country, which means we value our juniors hugely and aim to field a 1st XV that comprises 70% of players who progressed through our own ranks .
We want older and past players to feel as welcome as today’s super-fit senior squad, and juniors of all abilities to feel encouraged... without taking the essential competitive edge out of the game! And we want to be attractive to any talented players who come and make the Mighty Oaks their home.
While thinking about each end of the club, we never forget the value of the middle. Phil Woolacott’s champion 3rd XV and newly-elevated Vice President Bill Park’s Mighty Acorns, finalists of the Kent Vets Cup for the second year running, are the glue that sticks us all together.
Thanks one and all. It's a long report because there is a lot happening!
I would like to close this opening, by thanking the committee members, our ever-cordial President Mike Wooldridge and the personification of passion and drive that is our Director of Rugby, Roger McKerlie.
All these people give huge amounts of time and thought to drive our club forward as a formidable team, all for the love of the game.
See you on the balcony!
Trevor Nicholson, Chairman
Sevenoaks Rugby Club
Treasurer, Jonny Wilkinson writes...
The Club is in excellent financial health, despite a decrease in non-major sponsorship income- a hangover from the previous year where we lost the commercial manager and valuable face to face services of Bumble.
This has been addressed with the addition of Patrick O’Keefe as Commercial Manager, and next season will see a marked improvement already committed.
We decided to utilise some of the club cash on repairs and maintenance in order to complete the clubhouse refurbishment, including the shop move, replace the main central heating boiler and to complete the pitch side barriers etc. – resulting in a better environment both inside and outside. Utilities were under invoiced in 2015 and the catch-up was in 2016. We actually spent less on ‘other costs’.
We recovered from the preseason flood, which was subject to an insurance claim, ultimately resulting in improved floor surfaces throughout the changing rooms and players corridor. We completed the new strength and conditioning gym and resulting gents toilet move, entirely grant-funded by Corey Environmental, who were keen to add to their generous support for the previous season’s pitch drainage, balcony and car park.
Diane Carey has very successfully replaced the Children’s Workshop with Softplay Café – which has contributed over £10,000 to the club in the year to date, and regularly hosts around 75 under fives and their parents on term-time weekdays Tuesday-Thursday.Great work, Diane!
Commercial Manager, Patrick O’Keefe writes...
We have secured strong renewed and new commitments to sponsorship and look forward to working with our sponsors on continuing to promote their outstanding support for our progressive Club. Watch this space..
We have completely redesigned how we collect subs and overhauled the membership database.
We have a new till system, Wi-Fi and wireless card machines for the bar.
We hope to roll out electronic membership discount cards in September 2017, including members benefits at our own bar and local businesses.
Head Coach, Adam Bowman writes...
It barely feels like a month ago since we were all stood on the cabbage patch with champagne popping as we secured promotion to London 1 South. More or less a year on from that sunny day in April, I write to you as our loyal members and supporters to share with you my thoughts on the season and also to update you on what we have planned for next season.
When Roger, Trevor and the Committee approached me last year to take over from Danny Vaughan, I was clearly delighted but knew that there was a lot of work ahead of me. One of my key focuses was to build a support team of coaches, medical and strength and conditioning staff that would ensure we created a professional environment for the players.
To that end, we have the largest coaching staff ever assembled with former 1st XV players Mark Reay and Matt Bates charged with ensuring we gave our pacy backs the opportunity to express themselves and find space to exploit holes in the opposition defences. .
Ian Collins, one of the finest players to play for the 1st XV in recent times, was also brought on board to assist myself with the forwards. Unfortunately work commitments meant that Ian had to step back from coaching at Christmas time, but we were fortunate that Duncan Fotheringham, ex Westcombe Park 1st XV player and defence coach expert, joined the coaching team in October to add experience and bite to our team environment.
In the medical department, we welcomed Harry Holder who, alongside Jess Rugg, has ensured that our players are looked after not just on Tuesday evenings and Saturday afternoons, but also on Thursday evenings.This was crucial in our development and allowed us to show to the players how committed we were as a Club and coaching team at getting better in all departments.
Jonny Short, who many of you have seen screeching down the touchline to score one of his sixteen tries this season, has lead our Strength and Conditioning programme and it is no coincidence that a number of our wins have come from beating teams in the last twenty minutes of matches – it is testament to the hard work Jonny has put in throughout the season to ensure that the boys have remained fit.
Lastly, the thankless task of Team Managers and Match Day Assistants has been taken on by Billy Belither for the 2nd XV and Tom Swallow for the 1st XV – both have added valuable contributions throughout the season to ensure that the match day environment is as professional as possible for our players.
After a long pre-season, where in addition to Tuesday and Thursday sessions we added a Saturday morning session in Knole Park, we came into London South 1 on the back of two good pre-season outings, firstly at Medway and then at the Grasshoppers tournament, which we won. At this point I would like to confirm we will certainly be playing in the Grasshoppers tournament again and if you want a sneak preview of what we have been working on over the summer before the season starts proper, then the tournament in Isleworth will give you this.
There are two that stand out for me as games that typified our season. The first match was Maidstone at home. During the first half, we played some excellent rugby – pace, power and playing in the right areas.Yet second half, we switched off and allowed Maidstone back into the game. With a minute to go, a poor ‘exit’ from our own 22 meant Maidstone won possession and scored in the corner to win the match.A frustrating day at the office and it showed us early on in the season how tough and brutal this league can be.
The second match was Havant at home. Havant came to us unbeaten and with ambitions of a top two finish. Yet, with the execution of our game plan spot on, we played some magnificent rugby and beat the boys from the south coast by 4 points. Whilst the Maidstone match was a real wake-up call, the Havant match soon after proved we could compete with some of the top teams in the league.
Consistency & raising expectations are the words that will run as a theme next year. Whilst we had some great days in the sun, there were games that we let slip by, but that is all part of a learning process for this young side and coaching team. In conclusion, I was delighted with the finishing position of seventh in this new league.
Let’s not forget that we finished above Maidstone and Gravesend, two Kent rivals who in years gone by have consistently been either in higher leagues or league positions.
And so to next year. Our goal is to be fitter, stronger and more mentally resilient that last year. Everything we do is designed to move us forward – if you are not moving forward, then we are going backwards!.
Whilst many of you will be supping your Pina Coladas on the beach, a number of our squad will be in pre-pre season, undertaking programmes designed by our S&C and Medical department with the aim to ensure that they give themselves the best opportunity to strengthen areas of weakness that may be historic from old injuries.
We hope that this will ensure a reduction in injuries throughout next season and also make us fitter and stronger come the first league game.
One of the other key objectives next year will also be to maintain and build on our Senior Squad ethos. When I started last summer, I was determined that all players that trained and applied themselves had the chance to play 1st XV rugby, or at least the highest level of rugby they wished to achieve.
To this end, we rotated coaching staff for every 2nd XV match so that players knew that they were being watched and if they played well, had put their hand up for selection for the following week. The number of players to training, which has averaged 35 and hit as high 50, proves to me that the players believe that if they train well in a competitive environment, then they will have a chance of donning that 1st XV shirt.
That said, one of the most pleasing aspects for me this season has been the rise of the 2nd XV, who have come second in a competitive league and once again show the strength and depth we are trying to build. Next year, with more coaching and better strength and conditioning, we will have more players who are pushing for a 1st XV spot, of that I have no doubt.
All that leaves me to sign off with is a huge thank you from myself and the whole squad for your support this season. Sevenoaks RFC is a very special place and that is down to you. Whether you have been stood on the Bradshaw-Pearl Balcony, read our match reports, talked to us at the bar after a game or been on a coach trip, your support is what makes the boys train throughout the week and play on a Saturday.
It’s been a season I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing with you and I look forward to sharing more good times with you next season.
Head of Junior Rugby, Danny Jones writes...
The minis and juniors enjoyed another successful season, with numbers in almost all age groups rising we now have 800+ members from U5 to U18.
This years honours of Best Junior Team was presented to Steve Fitzmaurice's U12s. Not only winning the Kent Cup but also picking up the Kent Shield and Runners-up in the Goblet!
We had teams travel to Essex, Sussex, Herts & Middlesex, along with Kent of course, in search of competitive rugby, with most teams returning with wins or at least with big smiles.
The U15s went West to the Welsh valleys. The boys came up against teams from Abergavenny, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhumney & Nelson RFC. Slightly unfamiliar with the extreme physicality of the Welsh sides, the Oaks battled hard and came away with wins against all teams.
Not only bringing home the Cup from the Abergavenny Festival, but captain Jonty Wines picking up Player of the Tournament. Thankfully the boys adapted to the physicality and returned up the M4, bruised and battered but with some fantastic tour tales.
Junior Tour, to Norfolk, Steve Fitzmaurice with special thanks to the Tour Committee writes...
This year Sevenoaks Rugby Club took over 700 players, parents and supporters from an outstanding eight year groups, Under 7s to Under 14s inclusive, on a 'Legends' themed Tour to Great Yarmouth in Norfolk.
Thanks to the generosity of sponsors, Just Premium, Avion, St Julian's Club and Bills', each player was kitted out with a free Tour shirt and heavily discounted hoody.
Special appreciation also goes to Natasha Lindsay from Philosophy Design for Legendary design skills and to Karen Pearl for her hard work and once again stepping up to take responsibility for the Tour kit and finances.
The Club owes a huge debt of gratitude to the volunteer Tour committee, led by Hannah Blackmore, for bringing the event together. The hard work behind the scenes paid off in the form of an amazing three days.
Each age group performed incredibly well, with several - including the Under 7s, Under 8s, Under 9s and Under 10s - winning the Cup. Every single Oaks team enjoyed a high win percentage record.
Rugby tours as we know are about way more than who wins or loses. The Tour committee should be incredibly proud of their role as catalyst in the new and old friendships extended and built. Rugby's values came to the fore in Norfolk.
The Mighty Oaks spirit burned brightly (sometimes long into the night!) during a special three days, and the 'One Club' ethos is alive, well and that much stronger thanks to every player and everyone involved in a Tour on a scale that very few Clubs could contemplate, yet alone carry out so well. Who's up for organising next year's...;-) Thank you again to all involved for a very special and memorable trip.