Tomorrow Blackheath travel to Hertfordshire for what could, even at this early stage, be one of the defining matches of this season’s National League Two East campaign.
The Club have taken maximum points from their four games to date, and currently head the table. However, right behind them, just one-point adrift, and with the same number of victories, sit Old Albanian, their next opponents.
Blackheath have paid five previous visits to The Woollams, all while resident in National League One. The Club were victorious on three of them, the last time in 2018 when current head James Shanahan made a successful return to the club he had previously coached, and played for, for six years in two separate spells.
For Club full-back Nick Foster, however, tomorrow will mark the first opportunity to re-visit the club he joined as a five-year old, and remained with until 2018.
Nick is an OAs Old Boy in the truest sense of the term, having also attended St Albans School, around which the rugby club was established in 1924.
‘The rugby club actually came before the school for me,’ explained Nick. ‘I began with the U7s and worked my way right through the age groups, and then came back at weekends while at university to play for the 2nd and 3rd XVs.’
At Nottingham University, Nick also played alongside current teammates Jake Lloyd and Sam Isaacs, but it was after graduating with a degree in Geography, that he returned to OAs and held down a regular 1st XV place.
Over four seasons he made 71 league appearances and scored 34 tries. He also added a handful of games for Hertfordshire in the County Championship, and even made a one-off appearance for Wasps in the Premiership Cup, to add to a tour of Georgia for England Counties U20s among his accolades.
Then came time for a change.
‘I knew ‘Shanners’ well from OAs, and he’d moved to Blackheath and a couple of other teammates had gone there with him,’ said Nick.
‘With my career in advertising technology, I’d moved to living in south London, so it seemed like the obvious switch to make.’
A serious leg injury, followed by Covid, blighted Nick’s rugby career for a while, and the 2021-22 season didn’t go as Blackheath would have liked, with relegation from National League One at the end of it.
However, this term the Club have scored no less than thirty tries in their four matches to date, and although Nick can only claim two of them as his own, he has been instrumental in the build up to most.
By moving up into the three-quarter line, he injects pace and width into Blackheath’s attacking play. Add a safe pair of hands under the high ball, and a decent boot, and Nick has all the attributes required at full-back.
‘I started out as a scrum-half, and tried to convince Shanners I can still play there, but I got 40 minutes there recently and it was exhausting,’ he joked!
Not that Nick lacks energy.
When away from rugby, he likes to play squash, cricket, golf, and comes into tomorrow’s game having just returned home from a week trekking across Iceland with his partner Amanda.
‘One day I’ll make an appearance for the OAs Vets, as I’ve played for every other side from U7-U18, 4th – 1st teams, and that will complete the set. But for now that can wait.’
Old Albanian against Blackheath is a 3 pm kick off at The Woollams Playing Fields tomorrow.
The Club then return to Well Hall to face Guernsey on Saturday 22nd October.
Photo: Andy Wansbury