Christmas. A time when one takes stock of the year that has passed and looks ahead to the forthcoming challenges that the New Year brings.
And so when looking back through a busy 2016, there are two stand out events that will be remembered by all associated with the navy blue and hunting yellow. The first was a warm day on the last Saturday in April, when the Sevenoaks 1st XV, after a season’s long endeavour, managed to clinch promotion to London 1 South as they beat London Cornish in the London 2 South play-off match.
What was to follow, two weeks later, would touch each and every member of the Club. On 21st May, Sevenoaks Rugby President, Phil Bradshaw, passed away after a long battle against the toughest of illnesses.
A ‘Mighty Oak’ in every sense of the word, Phil was a cherished man throughout the Club. Held in the upmost regard by all that knew him, the affection that we all had for Phil was shown at his funeral, as over 100 Sevenoaks members paid their respects in a fitting tribute to a man that had given forty years’ service to Sevenoaks Rugby.
As we enter the final knockings of 2016, there would be no prouder member than Phil when reviewing the Club’s current state, as Club Chairman Trevor Nicholson testifies.
‘The spirit of Sevenoaks Rugby ran through Phil’s veins’ says Trevor. ‘He worked tirelessly to ensure that the future of the Club was in healthy shape and much of what we see now is down to Phil’s sheer determination and hard work.
Phil would be immensely proud of how the seniors have acquitted themselves this year under the stewardship of Adam Bowman, the continued thriving state of the mini and junior sections and the progression made off the field.’
As Trevor says, the Committee have been working tirelessly to ensure that Sevenoaks Rugby does not stand still.
At the start of the season, Clubhouse Manager Diane Carey launched the Soft Play Café, which has already become a popular destination for local parents, friends, babies and toddlers to enjoy.
The month of November saw the launch of the Club’s gym at the entrance to the Clubhouse which is a facility that will be open to all members by appointment.
October saw the news that the Club have launched a joint venture project with the Town Council to build a full sized state of the art 3G pitch at Knole Paddock, to be owned by the Council. ‘Both the gym and the 3G pitch will enable us to provide current and future players of all ages, the best in class for amateur sport’ says Trevor.
‘We have worked with our landlords STC on several improvements to Knole Paddock recently, including the construction of the Bradshaw-Pearl viewing balcony, and draining and enlarging the adjacent pitch to provide a fantastic new 1st XV facility.’
‘We welcome this next step to a 3G pitch, which, if granted Planning Permission, will be shared with the whole sporting and educational community. Many local schools and clubs that invariably have to cancel activities during winter months due to wet weather have already said that they would be very keen to use it’
On the field, the Junior and Mini section has seen a change in leadership at the start of the season, with the irrepressible Danny Jones at the helm.
‘To organise over 800 minis and juniors every week is no easy task. Danny has moved some of the junior matches to a later kick off so that there is a bigger crowd to watch on a Sunday which has been a great initiative, as well as putting a lot of the Junior and mini fixtures in front of the Clubhouse so that supporters can watch the matches from the comfort of the Bradshaw-Pearl balcony.
The ever-expanding mini and junior sections are not just our precious talent nursery, but the aspirational heartbeat of our Club, with a special mention to our girls team that goes from strength to strength.’
And what about the changing of the guard in the senior rugby ranks?
In June this year, Adam Bowman, who had breathed so much success into the Academy for eight years, took the role of Senior Head Coach, overseeing the coaching and development of the senior rugby.
‘Whilst only half way through the season, it’s fair to say we’ve been delighted with the progress Adam and his team have made. London 1 rugby is a completely new challenge for the players and coaching staff – we were under no illusions that we needed a deep squad to compete and the players have equipped themselves extremely well to the challenge.
There is, of course, lots of work still to do and whilst all three senior teams have made a good start to the season, we know they won’t be resting on their laurels and will work even harder to go further as the season progresses.
The Acorns, fresh from their Kent Veterans Cup win earlier this year, have also started well and I know Adam is lining up a few players to come and play on a Saturday, so beware!’
Ours is a club that prides itself on its amateur ethos, with a number of talented players returning from University to ply their trade at the Paddock, Trevor is keen to stress that the Club are always looking to provide additional rugby opportunities for all of its playing membership saying
‘This hasn’t happened overnight. Trips to Bournemouth 7s, an Acorns and Senior Rugby tour to Flanders this year and London Beach Rugby events have meant that we have kept involved our large university contingent and created an environment where players of all abilities and ages come together and represent Oaks across the many platforms of the game, in an enjoyable but competitive environment.
A personal highlight for me was that trip with the Acorns and Senior squad to Flanders in May. Of course winning both competitions made for happy campers, but the camaraderie shared by all on that trip was very special.
It’s something we are determined to keep going and I am sure we will continue to reap the rewards of natural player retention rather than ordering from the menu.’
With the A21 derby almost upon us, as Oaks look to overcome a strong Tunbridge Wells team at the Paddock this Saturday, Trevor is hoping to see as many members down at the Club this weekend for some festive cheer saying
‘Finally I would like to say a huge thanks to all our members and volunteers for their support over the past year. They make Sevenoaks Rugby Football Club a very special place to be and I look forward to seeing many of our members at the Club this Saturday for the 1st XV match against Tunbridge Wells, singing Carols together, or on Sunday at the last Junior and Mini training sessions and matches of the year.
On behalf of the Management Team, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’
Sevenoaks 1st XV take on Tunbridge Wells 1st XV this weekend at the Paddock, with Kick Off at 2pm. The 2nd XV are also at the Paddock against Old Alleynians with KO also at 2pm, whilst the 3s travel to Cranbrook.