And so it begins. After over nine weeks of training and 133 days since they last played at home against Chichester RFC, Sevenoaks RFC 1st XV will start their league campaign this weekend when they host Thurrock at the Paddock, in front of what is expected to be a big crowd. The Head Coach and Captain combination remains the same, with Adam Bowman and Stuart Coleman the familiar duo that will lead Oaks for the third successive season. Having played matches against Wanstead RFC, Old Colfes RFC and Beckenham RFC, as well as having a live training session with Sidcup RFC, both men feel that the squad is in good shape ahead of the league starting.
‘Year on year you learn new things’ said Bowman, ‘and you learn to tweak various aspects of preparation. We (the coaching team) work closely with the players and listen to their feedback on what has worked well and what needs to improve. I think we felt that this year we needed to up our fitness levels from last season. Fitness is always an area that you can get an extra 1 or 2 percent out of the team and Jonny Short has done a brilliant job in getting the guys in condition. At this level though, the players need to do their own work outside of training too and it’s been noticeable this year that players have worked hard in the off season in the gym. Dan Power, in particular, has worked extremely hard and was voted by the squad as the best trainer during pre-season, which is great for Dan and I am sure will benefit the squad this season – he’s looking in great shape and might even be putting himself in the window for selection at centre at this rate!!’
If Power gets the plaudits for his hard work, then Coleman must surely get them as well for his durability, having just completed his 15th pre-season with the Seniors. ‘It doesn’t get any easier!’ joked Coleman. ‘The joints are certainly a lot sorer and recovery takes a bit longer! But the buzz to get the season underway is as strong as ever and I can’t wait to get underway at 3pm on Saturday.’
The three other Oaks Senior teams have another week to wait until they get their league campaigns underway, but Oaks 2nd team and the Oaks Gents (4th) will also be in action in another friendly on Saturday as they take on Vigo RFC and Vigo RFC III respectively away from home. Bowman sees these as important fixtures due to a number of players that will have missed out narrowly on selection for the 1st XV match and the match between the Gents and Vigo III XV being the annual match between the two sides in memory of former player and coach, Jim Monks. ‘There’s no getting away from it’ said the Head Coach, ‘they’ll be some extremely disappointed players travelling to Vigo on Saturday. Those players have trained really hard over the last couple of months and will want to be involved at the Paddock. But it’s a long season, selection has been incredibly tough and all those involved at Vigo would have been in with a shout of starting in the 1st XV – there time will come. We will make our final decisions as a coaching group after training on Tuesday and then it will then be up to the 18 players to do show everyone how hard the squad have worked at the Paddock and the remainder of the Squad to show the coaching staff why they should be picked for the week after away at London Cornish.’
‘But the most important part of the whole day for all the sides will be to remember Jim Monks and to continue to raise money in his memory. The Gents have a real history of raising money for charities and events close to their heart and have raised over £5,000 for the Anthony Nolan trust so far, so I urge all who attend and are involved in the matches on Saturday to donate via the bucket collections so that we can continue to raise funds for a great cause. And we all look forward to raising a glass to Jim in the Clubhouse after the matches.’
And with a long season ahead, Coleman and his side are keen to start the best way possible, saying ‘We got off to a really good start a couple of years back when we played Gosport at home. It just takes the pressure off a bit, knowing that you have chalked up a ‘W’ in the results column. It’s never easy though and we are expecting a really strong Thurrock side to come to the Paddock – they’ll be equally desperate to get a win and particularly away from home. We want to make the Paddock a difficult place to come to and take pride in our home performances, so there’s no better way to do it than on Saturday. I’m hoping and expecting the Paddock to be packed and buzzing with Oaks supporters – Colin tells me he has new Guinness taps installed so there really is no better motivation to get down and watch us on Saturday at 3pm!’
To make a donation to the Jim Monks Memorial Fund click here or donate via the bucket collection on Saturday.
Sevenoaks RFC Senior Fixtures | Saturday 1st September 2018
1500hrs Sevenoaks RFC 1st XV v. Thurrock RFC 1st XV
1500hrs Vigo RFC 1st XV v. Sevenoaks RFC 2nd XV
1500hrs Vigo RFC 3rd XV v. Sevenoaks RFC Gents