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The West Kent Sport & Wellbeing Review of the Year 2023

Publishing Editor, Steve Rowley, takes a look back at the sporting highs and lows of the last year.

As recent years go 2023 was not a terribly bad year for local sport as all club competitions were completed in line with their governing bodies, whilst West Kent Sport & Wellbeing was born under the new stewardship of One Team Media Ltd.

Along with the continuation of features on nutrition from Magdalena Marvell, fitness from the guys at the Better Body Group, and travel from freelance Editor Frank Baldwin, we added new columns from local fashion and journalism student, Bridget Devine, local MP Laura Trott, and our Editor got his own opinion piece too.

So let’s go back over the last 12 months and see what wonderful news and events happened to the sporting community of West Kent in 2023.

January – February 2023
The year started with the National Indoor Hockey Championships where HC Knole Park entertained the crowds for a push to the National Premier League. Unfortunately their plight was just a match too far and they remained in Division One alongside fellow competitors Sevenoaks.

Sticking in Sevenoaks and after four years with the Swimming Club, Head Coach, Keiron Piper left the club for a new role at the Millfield School in Somerset. His replacement was Matt Paget, who has now been with the club for 12 months. Meanwhile a group of Sevenoaks Swimming Club members were out in the cold on New Year’s Day 2023, as they took a dip and braved the water at Bewl Water with the help of Tri-Swim Kent.

Elsewhere, Swanley skatepark opened ahead of schedule and we spoke to Tunbridge Wells Foresters FC Chairman Stuart Newman about the club and the progress its members have made since it was established in 1982.

And with the first silverware of the year, Sevenoaks Rugby Club’s Under-14 Girls celebrated winning the Kent Cup for a second year running.

March – April 2023
In March we highlighted Nizels Golf & Country Club in Hildenborough and reported on the uncertain future of sport as Tunbridge Wells Borough Council flirted with maintenance, repairs, and leases in ongoing disputes.

Meanwhile, Sevenoaks Town’s goalkeeper Reggie Rose was picked up by Premier League side Brentford FC, and Otford United announced Paul McDonagh as their new manager to lead them in a new direction.

HC Knole Park ladies 1s and 2s celebrated in April after both sides successfully clinched their respective divisional titles with a handful of games still to go in the season, with both teams having won back-to-back league titles, and Tunbridge Wells Hockey Club were on course for a season treble. In their women’s section alone, their 2nd, 3rd and 4th teams were looking to win their respective leagues, with their 2nd and 3rd’s already guaranteed promotion.

Meanwhile, Kings Hill beat Tunbridge Wells Foresters 2nd in the South East Counties Women’s Football League Divisional Cup final at The Gallagher Stadium in Maidstone. This was also the venue for the DFDS Kent Junior Cup where Kemsing United defiantly beat their near rivals Westerham to lift the trophy.

May – June 2023
May enjoys the turning point of the year when we celebrate the end of winter sports and the start of the Cricket season. But before we delve into the cricket, there was a sumptuous rugby match between Tonbridge Juddians and Sevenoaks in the National League 2 East.

Both sides had different ambitions during the season with Juddians looking to bounce back to National League 1 after relegation the season before, and Sevenoaks trying to hold onto their new national status. Both sides remain and have already been locking horns again this year.

Football came to its annual climax with Kemsing United Reserves lifting the prestigious Sevenoaks Junior Charity Cup against local rivals Weald Wolves, whilst Southborough FC lifted the Sevenoaks & District Football League Premier title.

In swimming, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, and Tunbridge Wells clubs all had their own success stories, with Eva Okaro achieving four junior gold medals, three European Junior consideration times and an open bronze. Whilst two of Tonbridge Swimming Club’s Para-Swimmers, Callie Ann Warrington, and Iona Winnifrith, travelled to Sheffield to compete in the Citi Para Swimming World Series event.

We then held our breath as Holmesdale, Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells cricket clubs went head-to-head in the Kent Cricket League Premier Division.

With the restructuring and amalgamation of the Kent Regional Cricket League and the Kent Cricket League, many clubs located in West Kent swung into action with multiple titles up for grabs. More on that later.

Sevenoaks Vine Cricket Club also made history in May as they competed in and won their first ever competitive women’s league match.

In May we also featured a series of articles on the demise of Sencio and the subsequent closure of its two leisure centres – asking how this was allowed to happen and what Sevenoaks District Council had planned for the future.

The success that is the Sevenoaks and Aylesford RFC coalition continued as they celebrated being Kent U16 girls Champions and West Kent Schools FA under 13 girls beat defending Champions Liverpool District in a thrilling game at Stoke City’s Bet 365 stadium, to become the National under-13 Champions of England.

July – August 2023
In July we announced the sad news of the passing of former Chipstead FC player Frank Thrush, who was instrumental in the club’s success during the 1980’s.

Tonbridge Swimming Club celebrated multiple gold medals at the summer’s Regional Championships whilst Tunbridge Wells Cricket Club were on fire as their season kept on getting better, fighting on three different fronts, including the Smash which was heading towards its knockout stages.

We also covered the annual Sport & Wellbeing Showcase event which was held at the start of the month on Seal Recreation Ground where multiple sports clubs and wellbeing businesses got an opportunity to talk to the public.

Tom Bosworth MBE was the guest of honour on the day and the Better Body Group got everyone’s hearts racing.

July also saw One Team Media celebrate success at the Kent Press & Broadcast Awards ceremony at the Spitfire Ground in Canterbury, winning awards for Highly Commended in both the Kent Magazine of the Year and The Neil Bell Kent Sports Journalist of the Year for Editor Steve Rowley.

The start of the new football season was also fast approaching and we looked at all the West Kent sides taking part in the Vanarama National South League, the Isthmian South East League, the Southern Counties East League, and the South East Counties Women’s League, whilst casting an eye over the Kent County League too.

We focussed on local legend Alan Igglesden, a former cricketer who represented both Kent and England during his career. We looked back on his life, career, and notable achievements, and the charity that followed his untimely passing in 2021.

September – October 2023
It was all about rugby in September as we featured local girl Tori Sellors and her quest to play for the England National side at the 2025 World Cup.

Sevenoaks Rugby Club finally triumphed in the 100 ball Smash competition on the Vine after the third year of trying, whilst Dragon boat racing returned to the waters in Chipstead.

Nizels reported that they were finalising their golf course and bunker works, to a great reception from club members and visitors alike.

Elsewhere, Tunbridge Wells Cricket Club found themselves a little short of the Kent Premier title, as they saw local rivals Holmesdale and Sevenoaks Vine get relegated to the Championship. This was the first time that Sevenoaks would not be playing in the Kent Premier.

Into October and it was time for our top footballing sides to bow out of the FA Cup for another year. Tonbridge Angels lost at home to Taunton Town, whilst Sevenoaks Town had faltered against a powerful Ramsgate a few weeks earlier.

November – December 2023
Towards the end of the year we released the news that Wasps Rugby Club were proposing to build a new stadium next to Swanley and the M25, Tonbridge Juddians and Sevenoaks battled to a 29-29 draw at The Slade, and Miles Martial Arts had two of its students picked by Team GB for the World Championships.

Elsewhere, Iggy’s Fund hosted their second official charity golf day at Westerham Golf Club, and the Kent FA celebrated their first ‘Diversity in Football’ conference to much applause. In other news, the Hurricanes Baseball Club, based in Hildenborough, were crowned British Baseball’s National Champions.

In December, Tonbridge Angels announced that one of their oldest players Fred Morris, had passed away shortly after the clubs 75th anniversary.

We delved into a whole bag of planning issues, as the Angel Centre in Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells Rugby Club, Swanley Rugby Club, and the Sevenoaks Neighbourhood plan were all under the spotlight.

Iona Winnifrith from Tonbridge Swimming Club set a new British record in the 100m breaststroke, Mark Dacey took over from the outgoing Harry Hudson at Sevenoaks Town and the Kent FA won the Brand Engagement category at the FA Recognition Awards.

• All of the articles and features from 2023 that you have read about here are all available online for free here localsportsnews.co.uk.

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