I find it hard to believe writing this piece that 21 years ago when I first became chairman of this club, I would be contemplating fixtures against the likes of Coventry, Birmingham Moseley, Rosslyn Park, Blackheath and Fylde etc.
In that first season under my chairmanship, we won just one league match in Kent 1 against Erith and were relegated! The following season was only marginally better: we won three games and only avoided further relegation to Kent Three because the team immediately above us had 10 points deducted!
How times have changed!
I can’t remember a better, more eventful - or more enjoyable – campaign than last season.
The eagerly anticipated move to College Meadow was a resounding success with our new home attracting bigger crowds as the season went on – climaxing with our biggest ever home crowd against Barnstaple in the final game of the regular season.
The play-off was a truly memorable occasion with 400 OEs supporters travelling up to Sale for a superb game of rugby wonderfully hosted by Sale FC, who I genuinely hope we meet again sooner rather than later.
A big thank you must go to Director of Rugby Gavin Lach, his coaching staff and the first team squad for a wonderful season.
The Extra 1st XV finished in their highest ever position in Zoo League One - a competition that comprises teams of equal or higher standard to those clubs in level 5 against whom our first team were playing just four seasons ago.
The newly-formed Bulls established themselves with a successful season in the Kent Merit table, just 12 months after we really struggled to put a side out. It’s a team full of promising young players, led by the not-so-young Ian Sutton, who will be fighting to get to the higher level. As next season progresses with some fantastic juniors coming through as well, we hope to be able to put a fourth team out again.
Last but definitely not least, next season will see our newly formed women’s side enter the league pyramid for the first time in National Challenge One SE. They were only formed in December last year, but it’s been a meteoric rise so far for OEs Women under the superb stewardship of former England captain Catherine Spencer, and I don't think it will be long before they are at least at the same level as our men's first team.
What is gratifying is that every week at College Meadow now, our supporters will be able to watch a high standard of rugby whichever team is playing at home.
Well done to all the players at every level of the club.
Off the field, I would like to thank all the committee for all their hard work and support. They know who they are and they were superb throughout the season.
So onwards and upwards now! As next season approaches, the excitement is already mounting and we are still only in July!
I hope we can continue to get the ever-increasing travelling support for the away matches that we experienced in the second half of last season. We will be looking into the possibility of laying on supporters’ coaches if there is sufficient demand. So watch this space.
Our success would not be possible without the generosity and support of our superb sponsors and in particular Secure Trading whose rugby profile has risen hugely since their sponsorship of England Sevens was announced.
It all adds up to some very exciting times ahead for everyone involved with the club. So come along next season and support Old Elthamians RFC. I for one, can’t wait for the start of the new season.
Have a great summer
Updated 13:51 - 4 Jul 2017 by Jon Edwards