When he was appointed Head Coach of Sevenoaks RFC nearly three seasons ago, there was a steely determination and vision in the youngest Coach in a senior position in London South 1. Like his players, Adam Bowman has developed considerably over the past three years, using leanings from his 1st XV debut season, when his 1st XV finished seventh and perhaps learning most during his second season, when a catalogue of injuries early on in the term stretched Oaks resources, with the 1st XV only securing safety a handful of games before the end of the season.
One thing has remained consistent throughout. Bowman's unwavering drive to improve and find ways to keep moving forward. 'I'm probably a bit of a headache to deal with for the Committee on occasions' joked Bowman. 'In fact, I know I am! But it's my job to continually push the boundaries and to be fair to the Committee, they have backed me 100%. We have healthy discussions - as any organisation does - but they trust me and I trust them. When I first took over, we had the ambition as a group (Bowman and the Committee), to compete at London Premier level. I think it's fair to say that the opportunity (to go up) has come around quicker than most expected, but we have good foundations and a strong Senior Squad squad that I really believe will compete if we do go up.'
Ah yes, The Senior Squad. A phrase that has been mentioned numerous times over the past three years and is probably what Bowman cites as his proudest achievement. More so than promotion though? 'Yes, I think so. Promotion for the 1st XV will be an incredible achievement, but the fact the 3rd XV won the league at the weekend, the 2nd XV had a resounding win against TJs and could also win the league, we get over 45 to training on a Tuesday and Thursday - that is a really proud moment for me, the other coaches and the committee. Other Clubs have gone on their own journey and have had success, but we knew when we started that we needed to create an environment where players can flourish and have the ability to play at the highest level they wish to achieve. For some, that might be the 3rd XV, for others, it will be the 1st XV, but we strive to provide a platform for a player to train and improve week on week.'
He continued 'In turn, that has provided competition for places and means that players have to train and play well to keep hold of their shirt. There have probably been a few raised eyebrows from regular followers of the side 'Why is Player X on the bench or not in the team this week? In the past, that player may have been a 'shoe-in', but if they don't perform, we now have players ready and waiting to take that spot. For me, that is why we have had success this season - the squad which has been built over the past two and a half seasons.'
Oaks 3rd XV wrapped up the league on Saturday without having to pass a ball or make a tackle, as an opposition walkover gave the them the necessary points to take the title. 'A brilliant moment' said Bowman. 'Frustrating in that we would have liked to have won it on the field, but a great feeling nonetheless. We will have to wait a bit longer to see if the 2nd XV have won their league, but again, they have done incredibly well to be at the top of a league containing the likes of Canterbury RFC, TJs and Old Elthamians and not forgetting Sidcup and Medway.
And so to this Saturday. First to Thurrock and then potentially Vegas?! 'Ah, yes, Vegas' the Head Coach tentatively says. 'I may have said somewhere along the line, very early on in the season, that the 1st XV won the league, I would take the Squad to Vegas! It's been a bit of a running joke. We have a lot of things to get right between now and Saturday at 5pm before that is even considered though...'
Saturday's opponents Thurrock RFC are perhaps, along with Camberley, the most in-form team in the league at present. It seems a long time since Oaks overcame the same opposition 40-15 on September 1st 2018 at the Paddock on a hot day in front of a buzzing Paddock. 'There's been a lot of water that has gone under the bridge since then. They confirmed fifth place in the league last week and will no doubt be out to finish well in front of their supporters.'
With a large number of supporters travelling to Essex to get behind Oaks, Bowman is keen his players don't get too carried away with the occasion and the permutations of bonus points. 'We need to channel that support in the right way and focus on the job in hand. We need to get the detail in our game right and ensure that our processes don't change. If we do that, then the rest will hopefully follow. If we go into the game thinking we need to get four tries, then we will force things, take our eye off the ball and Thurrock will put us away.'
'Whatever happens, it's been a great season so far and for it all to come down to the last game is testament to the other teams in the league as well as us. We've enjoyed every minute and have hopefully given something for our supporters to cheer about. It would be great if we could do it one more time on Saturday. COME ON YOU OAKS!'