Sevenoaks Rugby Chairman’s Report 2017-18

Dear Members and Supporters

‘To be the best Amateur Rugby Club in South East England’

In summary:

  • All volunteers in any capacity please put 31 August 2018 in the diary for the traditional Chairman's Thoroughly Thirsty Thank You at the Clubhouse, 6:30pm to 8:30pm
  • Thanks to everyone especially main sponsors Savills and Conway for an outstanding season
  • Special Reports below from Head Coach Bowman, Junior Chair Danny Jones, Treasurer Jonny Wilkinson, and Commercial Manager Simon Wright

Your committee, having completed five years (at least!) in the madly time-consuming job of running, building and improving the Club, is very happy to see not just green shoots, but whole trees of progress. I would like to begin by thanking them all; it is often said, but I really don’t think anyone realises what people commit to the Club unless they have done it themselves!

Huge Thanks then, to all eight committee members: Mike Wooldridge President, Andy Nicholls Secretary, Jonny Wilkinson Treasurer, Roger McKerlie Director of Rugby, Steve Fitzmaurice Marketing Manager, Simon Wright Commercial Manager.

Once again a big thank you to our main sponsors, Savills and Conway, who continue to derive value out of their association with our club, with outstanding quarterly financial contributions that help us to provide a high level of coaching, training and constantly improving facilities for all to enjoy, Minis to Acorns.

Remember if you or anyone you know instructs Savills to sell your house, the club receives £500 upon completion- no strings attached!

We believe that sponsors’ money is spent wisely, and unless one day members reverse the  historical ‘amateur’ vote, and certainly not on my watch, we will never pay anyone for playing at Sevenoaks.

I make no apology for the length of this Report (there is so much happening, what do you leave out?) and have included a brief season round-up from some key people.

We also want to show our deep appreciation to every manager, captain, parent, junior coach, pitch steward, fixtures and referee liaison, girls coach, tour organiser, and everyone who gives their time to our club. We would be delighted to see anyone who does a job for the club at our traditional Chairman’s Drinks: The Thirsty Thank-You Barrel  6:30pm to 8:30pm at the Club on Friday 31 August.

The Future
There are always capital projects on the horizon that enable us to dream of what the club could be, how we could improve facilities, coaching and club spirit to the point where we are the go-to club for young players who are not motivated by payment.

This year is no exception, as we support our landlords Sevenoaks Town Council in their Planning and funding applications for a 3G pitch suitable for all levels of rugby, to be built on our very own cabbage patch.

We don’t own the ground of course, so would use the pitch on a pay and play basis, but with a guaranteed number of free hours per week that would reduce our pitch hire costs significantly and mean that we never cancel matches or training to bad weather; a decision on this project should be forthcoming during this season.

Oak Park - a once in a generation opportunity for the Club
We have also signed Heads of Terms with Quinn Estates of Canterbury for an agreement that, in return for members’ support of their Planning Application to Sevenoaks District Council for 850 new homes to be built on the former Broke Hill golf course opposite Knockholt Station, would see the club gifted a £1.25m training facility including a small clubhouse, 3G pitch, full sized grass pitch and two junior grass pitches, as well as improvements to our home at Knole Paddock.

We understand that Sevenoaks Hockey Club has also signed with Quinn for a separate Hockey facility at Broke Hill, but would move lock, stock and barrel to Knockholt, something that we declined to do, as we do have great facilities at the Paddock, but simply need more, now that junior registration is in the eight hundreds.

In our ‘One Club’ spirit, the new facility, working title Oak Park, will be for senior and junior training, matches and activities all year round as required, in a completely redesigned playing schedule, and could include us hosting more ambitious tournaments with adequate parking and spectating facilities the like of which we can only dream of right now!

This exciting opportunity would change our Club ‘offer’ for ever, but not our location, aspirations or goals, stated again at the top of this report; it will only become real if the Application is successfully adopted into the Local Plan by SDC, and this relies heavily upon each and every member lobbying Councillors and writing an email or letter of support to the Council; a detailed newsletter will be sent to all members-I do hope you will take a few minutes to do this.

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Senior Playing Report, Adam Bowman, Head Coach
As my second season as Senior Head Coach drew to a close at the Paddock on a hot day in April, I was filled with more determination than ever to ensure that the senior sides improve, progress and compete collectively and individually.  

Whilst the 1st XV may not have enjoyed the same league points tally as last season, our 2nd, 3rd and of course 4th XV once again all competed at the top of their respective leagues, with the Mighty Acorns Vets once again being crowned Kent Champions.

 

 Champions Again...the Mighty Acorns

Champions Again...the Mighty Acorns


This season, for the first time in many years and against the national trend of fewer players being available, saw Oaks field a 4th XV, such was the strength in playing numbers across the Club and thanks to Pip Woolacott and Billy Park’s organization.

Adding another team is always a bit nerve wracking, but it was a clearly a decision well vindicated and I am delighted that we have been able to provide a platform for more players to engage in senior rugby on a regular basis.  

The 4th and 3rd XV’s have provided a great environment for our Academy players to experience their first foray into Senior rugby, which is a crucially important step and continues the production line of young Oaks into the Senior environment. 
 
Whilst we are on the Academy, I would like to tip my hat to Nat Thomas and Alex Rolfe who have done an excellent job this season.  As I know from experience, it is probably the toughest task in the Club to manage the Academy, as school pressures in particular play a huge part in players availability throughout the season.  

For the Academy to reach the Final of the Kent Cup shows how much commitment and loyalty Nat and Rolfey instilled and we look forward to welcoming even more Academy products to the Senior Squad in the coming months and years.
 
For those that have represented the 1st XV, of whom there were many, it has been on occasions, tough times.  Our injury toll particularly at the start of the season, really shook the squad and it took us time to recover.  

We lost Jack Barker, an accomplished number 10, one and a half games into the season, before losing a number of other players to long term injury, including our talented young prop Josh Te Hira.  Despite their injuries, which ruled them out for the season, Jack and Josh in particular were outstanding members of the squad and contributed immensely in training and off field socially.  Whilst they couldn’t take the field in anger, they were every bit as important as those playing each week and we look forward to having them back with us next season along with our many other long term injured players. 
 
As I am sure most of you that came to see the 1st XV in action, the standard of the league was also visibly stronger too, with every match a hard, physical encounter.  We talked at pre-season how we couldn’t afford to ‘switch off’ mentally, and perhaps there were games this season in which we did that and cost us dearly.  

Some of this can be attributed to the youthfulness of the side, but certainly moving forward, across the whole squad, the challenge will be for our players to be mentally stronger if we want to move higher up the leagues we are competing in.  

I also strongly believe that we will look back at this season as one that will have accelerated our development as a squad and in particular the younger crop of 17 and 18 year olds who performed exceptionally well whenever they were given the opportunity. 
 
Plans are continually in motion to ensure that everything we do keeps us progressing – if we aren’t moving forward, then we are going backwards! 
 
The support that we receive from everyone in the Club has once again been outstanding.  In particular, when we needed the extra push towards the end of the season, the Paddock was packed- so on behalf of all squads, thank you for your continued support.  
Of course it was sad to lose perhaps our most loyal and trusted supporter in Peter Hunt.  Peter’s passing was felt by all of the squad and coaching staff and we will miss him dearly.   

We started pre-season at the beginning of July with three sessions each week.  Numbers have been strong so far, with the team put through their paces but the coaching department and our Strength and Conditioning coach Jonny Short.  

We have worked hard to ensure that our squad continues to evolve and I’m really happy with where we are at the moment in terms of quality across the squad.  One of the key themes that we have instilled in the past two seasons is competition for places, so that players have the opportunity to fight for a shirt week in, week out.  

This season sees the competition amongst the squad move up a notch again from last season, which I hope will drive the players on to new levels – Train Hard, Play Easy!
 
With the excellent numbers we get to training, we also have continued to ensure that our coaching structure supports all players that turn up on a Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and‪ I am delighted to announce our team of coaches next year will contain some familiar and new faces.  ‬

Matt Bates will once again work with the backs alongside Jack Barker, who, as mentioned earlier, brought significant value to our back line last season despite being injured.  Tom Swallow will continue to work alongside myself with our forwards and ensure that we continue to hone our core skills. 

I am also delighted to welcome Paul Dawson into the coaching group.  Paul will lead our defensive system and the breakdown area and brings extensive knowledge, having worked at Tonbridge Juddians for a number of years with their 1st XV and the Academy.  I hope you will join me in giving Paul a warm welcome.  
 
As we welcome Paul, we also say goodbye and a huge thank you to Duncan Fotheringham.  Duncan has been with the squad for the past two seasons and has been a brilliant coach and mentor to the squad – we hope that Duncan won’t be a stranger and we will always welcome him at the Paddock with open arms and a beer or two!  

And finally in the coaching department, whilst Mark Reay will step away from coaching duties, he will now support the 1st XV on Saturdays in a match day assistant role.  
 
We also say goodbye to Jess Rugg, who has been an integral part of the medical department and Club over a number of years.  It’s an unenviable task working with 50 plus players week in, week out, let alone having to work with the coaching staff who are desperate for players to be fit every week, so on behalf of myself and all the players, I would like to thank Jess for all of her hard work and dedication to the Senior Squad.
 
I am pleased to say that Harry Holder, who joined as physio two seasons ago, continues to work with us.  Harry has been excellent in his time with us and continues to drive the highest of standards.  

I am also delighted to welcome Vicky Di Placito to our medical department to work alongside Harry.  Vicky worked with us last season on a few occasions and we are so pleased that she is able to join the team full-time this year, bringing National League expertise having worked at London Irish Amatuers in previous seasons.
 
Along with our committee, I am incredibly proud of what we are building here at Sevenoaks Rugby Club.  The effort and commitment from everyone is quite staggering and allows the playing side to thrive and focus on improving.  

Whilst of course the focus on a Saturday is to win each game, what makes this Club special is that win, lose or draw, there is always a warm welcome in the Clubhouse and we can’t overestimate the special atmosphere that this Club creates – it is without doubt one of the key reasons why we are able to attract so many players and continue to increase the size of our squad. Come on You Oaks!

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Junior Playing Report, Danny Jones, Head of Juniors

 Another solid season from Minis, Junior, Girls & Academy teams at Sevenoaks Rugby Club!

The Minis, who in accordance with the RFU directive, now compete in waterfall tournaments with no outright winners, certainly notched up far more wins that losses.  Our Mini section was also awarded the much-coveted Saracens Partner Club of the Year Award. There were also some fabulous end of season tours across the Junior sections, includinga huge cohort heading to Norfolk. Thanks to everyone involved in the enormous endavour of putting on the show for our young boys and girls.

Our Juniors competed well, with the U15 Girls side claiming the "Oaks Junior Team of The Year" title for their fantastic run in the National Cup.

  • U12s Kent Cup Winners
  • U13s Kent Trophy Winners and Kent Cup 7s Winners
  • U15 Girls Kent Cup Winners, Regional Cup Winners, National Semi Finalists.
  • U15s Kent Cup Finalists

Our Academy Boys put in great performances, with both teams reaching the Kent Cup Finals:

  • U16s Kent Cup Winners
  • U18s Kent Cup Finalists

Here's to another outstanding season of Oaks Juniors Rugby around the corner.

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Commercial Report, Simon Wright, Commercial Manager
Going into the 2018/19 season we have redesigned the Club Sponsorship packages and the club has secured a number of new as well as maintaining those existing longstanding sponsors. 

We will be working with our sponsors over the coming seasons to promote and support their business in return for their support of our Rugby Club and I look forward to welcoming them all to some of our pre-game lunches to experience the fantastic atmosphere that is Sevenoaks Rugby. 

The Club will hopefully be launching our long awaited new membership cards in September 2018, these will be pre loadable and can be used to pay for discounted drinks behind the bar as well as providing discounts from some of our sponsors; this has been more challenging than anyone thought, so please bear with us-more details are to follow…

The Club finished last season 9th in London 1 South and is in a strong position under Coach Adam Bowman to improve on that this season. This provides an excellent sponsorship opportunity for any local business and I would be very happy to discuss what the club can offer so please feel free to contact me.

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Financial Update, Jonny Wilkinson, Treasurer
Good financial health with significant improvement in sponsorship support from old friends and new, thanks to Simon’s hard work. No major projects this year, but we have plans to complete the horizontal split of the clubhouse and gym extension when funds permit.

Finally replaced the ancient festering cooker in the kitchen with a brand new catering cooker and warming oven, much to the delight of Diane Carey, who continues to feed the troops with panache and dedication. Consistent bar performance, although we are constantly looking at improving profitability – Colin and his cheery crew are thankfully continuing next season.

Detailed numbers will of course be presented in my full report at the AGM.

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Thanks all for the inputs; a long reads that shows the commitment to the future progress of the Club. Finally, we try very hard to be inclusive and transparent, so please get in touch if you would like more information or to offer constructive comment on anything. Personally I can’t wait for the new season to begin, and to get back into the groove. See you on the Bradshaw-Pearl Balcony!

Trevor Nicholson, Chairman, Sevenoaks Rugby
August 3 2018
 

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