When Ollie Robinson announced his retirement at the end of last season, having steered the Mighty Oaks from a jittery, relegation-threatened side to a well gelled and promotion winning outfit in just three seasons, he left a lasting legacy that will be remembered for years to come, but also rather large and daunting boots to fill.
As a Club that prides itself on the ‘One Club’ ethos, it’s no surprise that Sevenoaks RFC have turned to a man that oozes that exact spirit to take them into the relatively unknown territory of London 1 South rugby. Having risen through the Oaks ranks from a mini and junior before playing a significant role in the First XV over the past ten seasons, Stuart Coleman was the obvious choice for new Head Coach Adam Bowman when appointing his leader.
‘The Captain was one of the first areas I addressed when I took over’ says Bowman. ‘Having been around the squad last year, I could see that Stu was one of the outstanding players in the group. I watched a game towards the end of the season and remember being really taken aback by his work rate – he was hitting ruck after ruck and then was our top carrier as well. He’s also a big character within the group and is just someone who people naturally follow, which is something you either have or haven’t got. Lastly, he is someone who I trust judgement wise and we get on very well, which is crucial. He’s probably already fed up being on a whatsapp group with me and the coaches and the constant messaging, but the chemistry we have as a group is really strong and Stu is a big part of that.’
On his appointment, Coleman, who follows in his father Laurence’s footsteps (1st XV Captain in the early 80s), said ‘To captain the Club that I have grown up playing for and love, will be such an honour. I’ve caught up with Robbo (Ollie Robinson) a couple of times over a beer and chatted about the captaincy and I’m under no illusion that it won't be an easy task. I’m fully aware that it’s not just turning up on a Saturday and running out at the front of the line from the changing room – there’s a responsibility across a number of facets of the Club. Sevenoaks Rugby Club is a really special place and that’s down the people and members, whether that’s my Dad, Roger McKerlie, a player or parent in the Under 7’s or my team mates, we all play a part in making this Club a special place to come on a Saturday or Sunday and I’m just very honoured to play my small part in taking the Club forward’.
On his expectations for the season, Coleman is under no illusions as to the size of the task that faces the men from Knole Paddock ‘We’ve been training really hard and Adam has been brilliant in his approach. The level of detail he has gone into to make the environment on and off the field a healthy one, is actually quite staggering – I don’t know where he finds the time!’
‘We’ve also had a number of quality players that have come back to the Club after finishing Uni or taking a break from the game – it will be a real squad effort this year and its great already to see the competition for places across all positions. I want us to continually push each other – that’s the best way we will improve.’
‘With regards to our expectations, we are taking one game at a time. We are going into the unknown and it’s important that we just focus on every game and don’t get bogged down with targeting games or league positions. Our focus is firmly on Gosport and Fareham. The key thing I want is for everyone to enjoy their rugby. If the players, coaches and supporters enjoy themselves every Saturday, then we haven’t gone far wrong….unless we lose! Its important that we continue to remember throughout the season why we are here though – to play good, hard rugby and enjoy a pint or two after!’
With a weekend off before the season starts, Coleman and his men will have just under two weeks training before the first league game of the season against Gosport and Fareham, which is a 3pm kick off at the Paddock.