Despite it only being under a month since the rugby season finished, Sevenoaks RFC Senior Head Coach Adam Bowman is well underway in preparing for the 2018/19 season. ‘It’s fair to say that I’ve had planning for next season on my agenda for about three or four months now’ said Bowman. ‘Most sides in our area will have been reviewing their squads and set-up well ahead of the end of the season. You can’t afford to stop, have a break and then start from scratch in July or August as it means you’ll already be behind the curve.’
Despite a challenging season for the Oaks 1st XV, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th XV’s all competed at the top end of their leagues, with the 4th XV victorious, clinching the league title with a game to spare. ‘Overall, the Senior Squad did really well. The Club regularly fielded four Senior sides and although the 1st XV had a tough time, we (the coaching staff) had to keep reminding ourselves that there were players turning up to training in November that still hadn’t lost a game! So it is all about perspective and I believe it shows that our training and One Squad ethos is a successful and sustainable model’
Next season promises to be even tougher, as Oaks 1st XV will face local rivals Westcombe Park, relegated from Southern Premier and a side that they haven’t faced at 1st XV level for a number of years. Coupled with that, Medway remain in the league having been narrowly beaten in the Play-Off fixture, whilst usual top four suspects Havant and Chichester will also prove tough assignments for Bowman’s men.
‘This will be our third season at this level so we know what is coming – it will get harder, not easier. Medway and Havant were pretty much neck and neck for most of the season and were without doubt the two best teams behind (league winners) CS Rugby, whilst Park will want to go straight back up. Our last game (a win against Chichester) showed that we have the capability to take on the top teams in this league and we said to each other during that game that if we wanted to move up the league next season, those are the games that we need to win, particularly when at home. Our performances at the Paddock need to be better – we always get a great crowd and support there and we want and need to repay that support.’
‘We are an ambitious group and we want to be challenging at the top end of the London 1 South league this season. It’s a challenge the players have given to themselves and it’s important to the development of the Senior rugby here at Oaks that we keep pushing the boundaries. Our actions, in particular in training and match days have to reflect that ambition and as a coaching group and support staff, we are determined to provide an environment that allows the players to focus and succeed.’
The Head Coach continued ‘The challenge for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th XV’s are to build and continue on last season. The 2nd XV have finished runners up twice now and need to go a step further this season. We perhaps switched off in a couple of games and that cost us, so we need to be mentally up there for each match. The same with the 3rd XV, which is a side that I’m really excited about as it will provide us with a platform to blood a number of our Academy players in alongside our more experienced campaigners.’
Bowman has also moved to add to his coaching team, welcoming Paul Dawson from Tonbridge Juddians to focus on Oaks defence and work at the breakdown, as well as working with other coaches to improve how Oaks perform behind the scrum. ‘I’m really excited that Paul has agreed to come across to us’ said Bowman. ‘He brings National League and National Academy level experience and I have no doubt will add a huge amount to the group. I think we probably have the youngest coaching set-up in the league and we try and use that to ensure our sessions are full of energy and constantly challenging the players with new ideas. Paul will only enhance that.’
Oaks stalwart Peter Wilson also takes over from Chris Bright to manage the 3rd XV, an addition that Bowman is clearly delighted with. 'Chris did a great job last season and I would like to thank him for all his work. He has now stepped away due to his many commitments, but I am delighted that Pete has come on board. He has been a key figure within Oaks Senior rugby for a number of years and I'm looking forward to welcoming Pete into the Management group.'
‘We are also having some positive discussions with a number of players who are looking to join us, as well as retaining all of our current squad and welcoming back a number of players from University. The focus is to build on what we have. We provide a platform for all capabilities and want players to constantly improve and challenge themselves. The most important thing is that we have a great time doing it. The most pleasing aspect for me is seeing new players coming in and immediately settling in to the Squad because of the welcome they receive from other players.’
Lots to do then before the first league game in September then! ‘It can’t come soon enough!’ joked Bowman. ‘No, it’s important that our players get the rest, because it is such a long season. But the mind does tend to wander every now and again to getting back out there on a Saturday afternoon at the Paddock, with a packed Clubhouse spilling out on to the balcony cheering us on. I can’t wait!’
If you are interested in playing Senior Rugby at Sevenoaks RFC, then please contact Head Coach Adam Bowman by email on firstname.lastname@example.org