PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks are determined to embrace their unexpected promotion to level seven.
Oaks finished fifth in the Cornwall/Devon League in the 2021-22 season and thought they had just missed out on promotion for a third successive campaign, having finished third in 2019-20 and fourth in 2018-19.
But after the RFU reorganised all their leagues from level three down, they decided to promote five teams from last year’s Cornwall/Devon League into a new-look Counties One Western West, which was previously known as Western Counties West.
Oaks will join Bideford, Bude, Cullompton, Falmouth, Kingsbridge, Paignton, Penryn, Pirates Amateurs, Tiverton, Topsham and Wiveliscombe in the division.
“It is fantastic news for the club. It is going to be a challenge as the league looks tough, but it’s very exciting for the club.”
Chairman Nigel Higginson added: “Having been unexpectedly promoted we have to embrace it.
“We are in a good place with Dan Parkes coaching along with Aiden and now having Lewis Paterson on board. We have put ourselves in a good position.
“As a whole club we are pleased. We have also had our second team accepted into the league, which all being well with strengthen the first team.
“I would like to think we can consolidate for a couple of seasons.
“We have played second fiddle to Services and Ivybridge for a very long time and it would be nice if we could start to make some in-roads there in the next few years.
“We are building a gym at the club and we are going to have two ladies’ teams in the league now so we will have the whole package.”
Higginson added: “We came out of Covid wondering how sport was going to recover but by hook or by crook this is probably the best season we have ever had, what with promotion, getting a second team in the league and also getting a ladies’ second team in the league.”
Oaks also won the RNEC Cup and the Pedrick Cup in April to finish the 2021-22 campaign off strongly.
“We were struggling with the second team around November and if the wheels on the bus had come off a bit more then we might have been looking and thinking we can’t do this (go up), but as it turns out we find ourselves in as strong as a position as the club could be in to take on this new venture,” added Higginson.
“There were winners and losers in all this reshuffle, but what with our second team going into the league our ladies second team going into a league and us getting promotion we have had a triple whammy.”
OPMs, meanwhile, have found themselves left without any derby games next season and far more travelling after been named in a different level nine Devon division to all their Plymouth rivals under the new shake up.
The Old Boys have surprisingly been named in Counties 3 Devon A, while Tamar Saracens, Old Techs, Plymouth Argaum are all in Counties 3 Devon B, which Oaks say their seconds will also be going in after initially getting left off the list.
OPMs will face trips to Torrington, Tiverton II, Sidmouth II, Okehampton II, New Cross, Exeter Athletic, Cullompton II, Crediton II and Buckfastleigh.
Devon B, meanwhile, is made up off all Plymouth and South Devon teams, apart from Topsham II. The teams initially confirmed in that league were Tamar Saracens, Plymouth Argaum, Old Techs, Dartmouth, Newton Abbot II, Paignton II, Salcombe, Teignmouth II, Totnes and Topsham II.
The RFU’s league shake up was supposed to reduce travelling, but that is not the case for OPMs.
“It does not make sense to us,” said OPMs team manager Sean Cook. “But as a team we have talked about it and we are going to embrace it. It is a chance to play some different teams.”
OPMs are still looking for a new head coach to replace Rick Orkney, who stepped down at the end of the season.