Sevenoaks Rugby Club has much to look forward to and we speak to Club Chairman Trevor Nicholson about the ‘one club’ philosophy that unifies young and old, incoming President Mike Wooldridge about his vision for the future, and Director of Rugby Roger McKerlie’s focus for the coming season.
September means a new start and Sevenoaks Rugby Club is no exception. The 1st XV has its opening League match of the 2017/18 season on 2 September with an away trip to Chichester, while the 850-strong junior section returns to training at the Club’s Knole Paddock home on 3 September.
Club Chairman Trevor Nicholson sets out the Club’s vision: “Our commitment to the amateur mantra continues; we want to be one of the best amateur rugby clubs in the country, which means we value our juniors hugely and aim to field a 1st XV that comprises 70% of players who progressed through our own ranks.
“We want older and past players to feel as welcome as today’s super-fit senior squad, and juniors of all abilities to feel encouraged… without taking the essential competitive edge out of the game! And we want to be attractive to any talented players who come and make the Mighty Oaks their home.”
“While thinking about each end of the club, we never forget the value of the middle. Phil Woolacott’s champion 3rd XV and newly-elevated Vice President Bill Park’s Mighty Acorns, finalists of the Kent Vets Cup for the second year running, are the glue that sticks us all together.”
Mike Wooldridge is in his second season as Club President: “It was an exciting and encouraging first season for me as President, a role which I am most honoured to hold, which coincided with the 1st XV’s entry into London 1 South and Level 6 rugby. The senior squad as a whole performed exceptionally well under two other newcomers in their roles – Captain Stu Coleman and Coach Adam Bowman. We all hope for another successful season at this level in 2017/8, and being as professional as we can as an amateur club.”
“Enjoyment is key for all our juniors, seniors and supporters and we aim to help in every aspect to ensure this can be achieved. Here’s to 2017/18 and another Mighty year for the Oaks!”
Director of Rugby Roger McKerlie has announced that the Senior Squad under Head Coach Adam Bowman’s stewardship will now be expanded to the 3rd XV. For the first time in a number of years, the Club will also field a 4th XV, which will compete in the Clinque 4 West league. Bowman, who enters his tenth year of coaching at Sevenoaks RFC this season, became Senior Head Coach last season and oversaw the 1st XV finishing seventh in their maiden season in London 1 South and also guided the 2nd XV to runners-up spot in the Kent Invicta League.
“We have seen really high attendance at training throughout the pre-season so far,” says Roger “but this decision and the thought process about expanding our senior rugby offering started during last season. Adam and his team have worked hard to create a ‘Squad’ rather than divided teams and this has reaped rewards in encouraging regular attendance to training. We have invested in a large coaching group as well to ensure the players are receiving high quality, varied training and are able to improve as individuals in a competitive environment.”
Oval passion with family at the core
Sevenoaks Rugby Club offers all ages the opportunity to play rugby at any level, in outstanding facilities with equally outstanding coaching. What also make the Club stand out are its family values as a Club for all generations. The majority of the Club’s 1st XV players have come through the ranks, having joined the Club as juniors. A common rite of passage sees players introduced to rugby on the Paddock as a young six or seven year-old, before going on to play for the Club at senior level, and then on to coaching the next generation of youngsters – on the very same patch of ground where they learned to play all those years ago, with family, friends and often the grandparents on the touchline!
All the money that comes into the Club is re-invested back into the Club. The recent addition of the Bradshaw-Pearl Balcony, opened by Club Vice President, the Rt Hon Michael Fallon MP, alongside new pitch surrounds and hard standing make watching rugby on the Paddock a convivial and comfortable experience, with a well-stocked bar and sport on the big screen a welcoming venue for big matches and internationals. Then there’s the legendary culinary skills of Diane Carey in the kitchen, serving up regular treats and feasts.
The standard of rugby is so strong at the Oaks thanks to the huge investment in coaching. The Club has a semi-professional coaching team that works closely alongside more than 100 volunteer coaches who are supported to achieve their coaching and health & safety badges. The Club aims to give the next generation of talent the very best start in rugby, from tag and mini rugby through to the older junior groups and ultimately to perpetuate the Club’s senior rugby success.
Support in all weathers
The Club is hugely fortunate in the quality of its support. Come all weathers, parents and supporters put the miles in to give the young and old Oaks squads a cheer in all weathers. The exposed east Kent reaches of Canterbury, Medway and Thanet are not for the faint hearted on a wild and wet December and January but that’s where you’ll find the Oaks spirit and humour at its resilient best.
Sevenoaks Rugby is also hugely indebted to its fantastic headline sponsors Savills and all its sponsors. Club members take every opportunity to support sponsors, because their success and that of the High Street and local businesses in Sevenoaks more broadly is important to the Club’s future.
What next for the Oaks?
Three additional areas of focus in 2017/18 will include: Expanding its local outreach programme with local primary and secondary schools, in an initiative where the Club holds and organises regular rugby training within schools that do not normally feature rugby as part of their sports curriculum; maintaining a vibrant social calendar, with regular well-attended match day lunches, events and other entertainment, and deepening community ties through rugby. The Club is a Partner of children’s charity the Wooden Spoon, and will also be hosting a special weekend of events for GB Wheelchair Rugby in November.
This girl can: Girls rugby to the fore
The massive growth in rugby as a girls and women’s sport is evidenced by success of the England women’s national team in front of packed houses at the recent Women’s Rugby World Cup. The girls section of the juniors at Sevenoaks Rugby Club continues is also thriving.
From 2017/18 the Junior Girls section will feature three squads at Under 13s, Under 15s and Under 18s. The girls are always on the look out for new members, and in August held a special #INNERWARRIOR event at Knole Academy 3G pitch.
Around twenty girls, ranging from the ages of 9 – 15 all found their #INNERWARRIOR, from beginners, to club players, to county and regional players alike: all working together and having fun whilst learning and/or enhancing a variety of skills.
“All agreed the DISCO TOUCH Rugby was by far the best and most exciting game of the night,” says Manager Tony Williams. “Glow in the dark headbands are definitely making a comeback! Thank to all those that joined us and we can’t wait to welcome our girls back to the new season. New players at any ability, including completely new to the sport, will be made very welcome!”
Girls interested in joining should please contact Tonya, on 07969 612269 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SRFC at a glance
Home Venue: Knole Paddock, Plymouth Drive
Senior teams: Oaks runs five senior squads including the Acorns (Vets), offering opportunities for every ability of player. The 1st XV plays in the highly competitive London & South East Division 1 – just five rungs down from the Premiership and the highest standard at which the Club has ever played.
Junior teams: Under 5s up through every age group level to the Academy (for Under 16s, 17s and18s) and a thriving Junior Girls sections at U13s, U15s and U18s turn out for the Oaks. More than 850 youngsters represent the Mighty Oaks, making it one of the biggest Junior rugby sections in the country if not the world.
Members: 1,500 playing and social members
Interested in playing, watching or becoming a non-playing member? Visit www.sevenoaksrugby.com and get in touch. The new season starts in earnest on the weekend of 2 and 3 September 2017.