In recent times, the term ‘Mighty Oak’ or ‘Mighty Oaks’ has been referred to aplenty across the Club. Whilst only containing two words, it is a reference that, as Sevenoaks Rugby Football Club members, whether past or present, we feel encompasses the spirit of our great establishment. In fact, trawling the internet, the Mighty Oak is described as ‘the symbol of courage and power, legend has it is it the most powerful of all the trees, the Mighty Oaks stands strong through all things…’
A man that personifies the ‘Mighty Oaks’ in every way is 1st XV Captain, Stuart Coleman. Starting his Oaks career in the mini section, under the tutelage of his father Laurence, a former 1st XV Captain himself along with Mike Woods and Mark Aspinall, Stuart rose through the ranks at Sevenoaks RFC in what was a very successful junior team which contained current 1st XV player Ben Aspinall, former London Welsh, Bristol and England Counties fly half Tristan Roberts and Luke Harding. He would tour with that side to South Africa in 2006 and then go on to play for the Club’s Academy. Before long, 1st XV and Senior rugby came calling which he adapted to with ease, becoming a driving force as Oaks looked to work their way back to London South 1.
And so 10 years later, Stuart leads out his troops this Saturday against Cobham to win his 100th First XV cap in a game that fittingly follows on from the Past Players lunch. His rise from junior to centurion has been ‘a pleasure to watch’ according to Director of Rugby Roger Mckerlie. ‘Whilst he may have been a little uncertain at his elevation, none of the management team were. We knew he would emerge as a superb leader and adopt his own style in doing so. The results and, more importantly, team unity in the senior squad are evidence of this. The word ‘legend’ is over used but in the world of Sevenoaks Rugby, Stu can rightly claim to be one. Massive congratulations from us all Stu’.
According to one former 1st XV player, James Garcia, the 6ft 4inch second rows reputation was already building before he won a senior cap. ‘I remember in the early years seeing him grace the training pitch and thinking ‘who is this muscular kid?!’ Of course I had already heard good things about Stuart and I don’t think that I have ever remember him having a bad game! He’s a true asset to the Club and it was a pleasure to have played with Stuart for many years.’
An architect by trade, Coleman would no doubt have reached the century sooner had it not been for his studies at Northumbria University. Whilst the long, floppy, surfer boy hair may have gone by the time he returned from his studies, his athleticism, fitness and sheer physique remained, making him arguably the most consistent performer for the 1st XV over the past decade. A force in the lineout, as well as a herculean work rate around the field, there were no doubt many in London South 2 pleased to see the back of him, in the nicest possible way.
As Roger previously alluded to, following on from the retirement of Oliver Robinson, there was no doubt across the club that the surname ‘Coleman’ would once again be engraved onto the 1st XV Captain’s board, as Head Coach Adam Bowman testifies. ‘When needing a new captain to take over from Robbo, there was only one man for the job. First and foremost, he’s a top bloke, Club man and natural leader of men. Coupled with this, he is an outstanding rugby player and also Harvey’s favourite ale drinker! On behalf of the whole playing squad, well done Stu! I think my biggest challenge now is convincing him to get to 150 caps….!’
Perhaps the only man to have played with both Stuart and his father Laurence is current Chairman Trevor Nicholson who echoed Adam’s sentiments ‘Having played for many years with his father when skipper of the 1st XV, and even a few times with Stu himself, I can confirm he is truly a chip off the old block. The Coleman DNA seems to be all about single-minded strength and determination both on and off the pitch, which transmits to the troops a quiet, yet thoughtful leadership and reliability’
‘If we’re looking for a player and skipper to follow Ollie Robinson’s admirable qualities, and whose loyalty to his Club is unshakable in this age of poaching and pointless payments – and we certainly are – then Stu is our man. On behalf of all the Club I would like to offer a huge congratulations to Stu – to reach 100 caps for the 1st XV takes fitness , resilience and talent; to his great credit, he has these in spades’
And so fittingly we leave the last words to the man himself. Typically, he’s not getting too carried away with his personal achievement, with the focus of putting in a good team performance at the forefront of his mind ‘It’s a huge honour to get my 100th cap for Sevenoaks Rugby Club. It is a goal I aimed for since my first cap over ten years ago. I will be very proud to have my name on the honours board in the Clubhouse alongside some real Club legends, many of whom I have played with own my own journey to becoming a centurion.’
‘Hopefully the team can continue our good form and get back to winning ways at the Paddock on Saturday. Cobham will provide us with a stern test after a healthy win in their last game against Maidstone. As ever, we appreciate the support and look forward to seeing as many supporters down at the Paddock on Saturday to cheer us on’
As Saturday looms, the Oaks 1st XV will no doubt be pulling out all the stops in their incredibly tough fixture against Cobham to ensure that their skippers ale tastes that bit better in the changing room at 4pm. Congratulations Stuart, enjoy every moment, you deserve it.
Oaks 1st XV take on Cobham this Saturday at the Paddock, in what is expected to be a busy crowd following on from the Past Players lunch. The match is being supported by our Main Sponsor, Savills. Kick Off at the Paddock is at 2.30pm. Savills is a multidisciplinary property company and we have representatives from residential and development from Sevenoaks attending. From Cobham, Ian Camplin, appropriately Head of Sports, Media and Entertainment will also be in attendance – we look forward to welcoming all of you to the Paddock on Saturday.
The 3rd XV are away this week against local rivals Tunbridge Wells – once again, KO is at 2.30pm.