So now the wait is nearly over. After months of hard work on and off the field, the Oaks are back in action this weekend as the 1st XV entertain Gosport and Fareham at the Paddock for the first London 1 South league fixture of the season, whilst the 2nd XV travel the short distance down the A21 to face Tunbridge Wells 2nd XV in a friendly.
And whilst there is no doubt the excitement levels will be high amongst all supporters and players, whether home or visitors, it will be new Sevenoaks Head Coach Adam Bowman who will be most keen to get the season underway having been working non-stop on forming and tailoring his new squad almost immediately after the referee blew his whistle to end the play-off contest between Sevenoaks and London Cornish back in April.
Not just content with building a new team and culture within the Senior Squad, which included up to five meetings a week before pre-season started and then running the most extensive pre-season programme the Seniors have ever been involved with, Adam and his partner Emma also welcomed young Harry Bowman into the world the week before Oaks played Medway in their first pre-season fixture.
‘It’s been one of my busier summers!’ Bowman joked. ‘It’s been fairly relentless getting everything in place, but equally it’s been great fun. It’s been really exciting and rewarding seeing the squad grow over pre-season and I am excited now to see us put some of hard work into practice.’
On his season’s aspirations, Bowman is clear that Oaks won’t get drawn into predictions saying ‘It’s one game at a time. We are fully focused and give the upmost respect to Gosport and Fareham and of course Tunbridge Wells 2nd XV. That’s all we have been thinking about – after this weekend, we can then take stock of how we performed and move on to the next games as a squad.’
‘Every side we face will no doubt have been putting in the same efforts to improve their squad, training regimes and environment, so I am under no illusion that by putting in all this hard work, we have a right to think we should beat next week’s opposition. So much depends on form, injuries….the weather! I am just really pleased with the environment we have created and the squad we have – to a man they have worked hard in pre-season training and that is all I can ask for. ’
The man charged with appointing Danny Vaughan’s successor was Director of Rugby Roger McKerlie and he is already confident that his decision to go with one of the youngest Head Coach's in the country is the right one. Speaking on his young coaching leader, McKerlie said ‘Adam has earned an outstanding reputation within the Club for his work with the Academy over the past eight years and also more recently working alongside Danny with the Seniors. The enthusiasm and level of detail he has shown has been exceptional and it’s testament to the level of respect he has seeing the number of former Academy players that have come back this season to play senior rugby.’
Now in his fourth year as overseeing all rugby matters at one of the biggest sports clubs in the South-East, on his thoughts ahead of the season, McKerlie commented ‘There is a very good feeling around the Club from last season and its now up to us as a collective to build on this and keep it going. The senior matches this weekend will see a raft of rugby kick off across the Club, with the mini's and juniors beginning their season the following day - its an exciting time of year for all involved and we believe we are in good shape across the Club to have a good start to the season and by that I don't mean results, but more so Club members, from the Under 6's through to our stalwart Senior rugby supporters enjoying themselves in the special environment that we have created here. Bring it on!'
Watch Oaks open their London 1 South campaign as they take on Gosport and Fareham at the Paddock this Saturday 3rd September at 3pm.