The 25-year-old former Coopers School pupil becomes the seventh new arrival of the summer at College Meadow.
Conlon started out at Westcombe Park, captaining the Colts, before breaking into the first team at the age of 18. “I made my debut at 18 and OEs captain Hamish Barton started alongside me at hooker for Combe that day,” Conlon recalls. “Hamish was my captain at Combe for three to four seasons and I also know Preo [Adam Preocanin] who is a former Combe boy.”
The young prop spent the summer of 2016 playing in Australia in the Shute Shield for Gordon before returning to England to sign for Blackheath in time for the start of the 2016/17 season. He appeared in the first six National League games but injury disrupted his time at Well Hall and he moved back to Combe for the remainder of the season.
Conlon signed for Tonbridge Juddians, newly promoted to National Two South, at the start of last season and helped them to an impressive sixth placed finish, as well as appearing for Kent in the County Championship.
“I had a good year at T-Js and really enjoyed it,” Conlon explained. ‘Scrummaging and set piece was good from my point of view last year - we had a good year up front. But I really wanted to move up a level. I almost signed for Elthamians the season they got promoted to National Two so I knew Gav [Lach] from that and also Mark Garratt who I've known for years. So it all fell into place.
“I love the club’s ambition, and the quality of players they have in my position and coaches who used to play in the front row is what really sold it for me. I am at that age where I've still got loads to learn.
“I love scrummaging - it’s a prop’s bread and butter, it’s an absolute must. But I also love getting my paws on the ball and looking for some carries. I've played some National One so it's not totally new to me. It will be good to learn as much as I can from people around me in the off-season and give it a good go come August.”
There’s been no relaxing close season for Conlon either under the watchful eye of OEs strength and conditioning coach Nick McBride, as the prop aims to hit the ground running once Elthamians’ pre-season gets under way on July 2nd. “Nick’s had me dieting and training hard in the gym since May 1st, so the graft has already started and it's going well,” Conlon said. “There's some good props and a lot of competition at OEs, so I'll get my head down and when the first game arrives I'll see where I end up. If it's not in the 1st team, I'll do what it takes to get a shot.”
OEs Director of Rugby Gavin Lach said: “Reece has been on our radar for some time. He’s already acquired plenty of National League experience and he's still young for a prop so he has bags of potential and will only continue to improve and develop. We know how demanding National One is particularly in the front row, so to have some new faces competing for a place in the starting line-up will be invaluable.”
Updated 12:16 - 17 Jul 2018 by Jon Edwards