Oliver Evans - bouncing back

Oliver Evans is proof that even when you get a setback in life, never give up on your ultimate dream.

For many young sportsmen and women their dream is to play the sport which they excel at. For Oliver, it was playing in a tennis grand-slam and lifting the Wimbledon trophy on Centre Court.

But at 20 years old, his dream looked like it had slipped away.

After attaining a world ranking, a wrist injury ended his tennis career and he was left at a crossroads.

Oliver’s short-term aim was to head to Bath University to get an education to enable him to get a job; but he decided to give sport another crack.

Having grown up loving sport, he tried his hand at rugby in the first few weeks at university and that was the birth of his second sporting journey.

Since then, he has had a remarkable rise in the game and the young centre is taking everything in his stride.

From a fresher at rugby trials he moved on to be involved with the Bath Rugby set-up before he signed a senior academy contract with London Wasps last year.

Two more injuries threatened to halt Oliver’s progress, but after recovering from them he moved to Jersey and has begun pre-season training with hopes of being a first team regular.

“When I was 14, I left school to go and become a tennis player and that was always the dream,” said Oliver.

“When I was about 20 years-old, I started getting problems in my wrist which became a chronic thing and then I got told by a surgeon that I couldn’t play top level tennis anymore.

“I just went into tennis because I was doing well at it at a young age and when my tennis ended, it felt like the dream was over.”

However, Oliver saw that going to Bath University was a sporting lifeline and from there he joined the rugby club after trialling in his first year.

Oliver added:  “My Dad used to play rugby and I obviously stopped to become a tennis player, but I started playing rugby again for fun because I had always been sporty and I felt like I needed something do! “

“I managed to make it into the elite training squad and played for the 4s and 3s in freshers and ended up playing a few games in the 1s towards the end of the year for the university.”

From there, Oliver’s remarkable journey took him to Bath Rugby before London Wasps signed him ahead of the 2014-15 season.

A year on, it still hasn’t been straight forward for Oliver who suffered two serious injuries and tough competition  at Wasps which meant he left the club and he is now enjoying life with Jersey.

Having played tennis for so long, to move to rugby is quite a transition and Oliver said it was tough to adapt to begin with.

Oliver said: “I remember turning up at Bath in the first year I was there and I was so much smaller than the rest of the guys. I had a tennis body and my shoulders fell apart the first couple of times I played!

“There was good S & C’s down there and in my second year at Bath Rugby the conditioning was really good. I guess my body adapted to playing rugby as I got used to the contact.”

During his three years at Bath University, Oliver continued to develop as a player and the young centre signed a senior academy contract at London Wasps last season.

Bath University is known to be one of the best in terms of rugby, and Oliver believes that was the perfect platform to launch his rugby career.

He added: “We had a good coaching team at Bath University. Aaron James was head coach and Sean Williams was 2nd XV coach and they were a really good combination.

“Aaron was keen on playing exciting rugby and he was quite ambitious with me from the start and spotted something in me and the same with Sean as well.

“As I started to improve, the professionalism picked up a little bit. I was trying to look after my body more, get in the gym more and put on a bit of bulk.

“So going to Bath University and then on to Bath Rugby was one more step up and that got me ready for when I went to Wasps which meant it wasn’t too much of a shock.”

Oliver found life tough with London Wasps after suffering a shoulder tear and then a PCL injury in the early stages of his time with club, but did play in the A League as well as representing Blackheath Rugby Club in National One.

“Unfortunately, I went into the season with a tear in my shoulder and because I was just starting at Wasps, I didn’t want to start off with my new club with surgery,” said Oliver.

“At Christmas, I torn my PCL in one of the A-League games so we decided, because I was going to be out for two or three months with the PCL, to get my shoulder fixed.

“Looking back on it, although it didn’t work out with Wasps, I now have a fully fit shoulder and my PCL recovered.
He enjoyed being in the professional environment at Wasps and relished playing for Blackheath, but the next chapter of his sporting adventure has taken him to Jersey.

“At the moment I am just working hard and enjoying being on the island, said Oliver .It’s a really nice place and a its quite a nice environment. It’s got that island feel to it, everyone is getting behind the club and it’s a really good bunch of lads.

“In the short term, I want to try and make the squad if I can. I don’t like to think too far ahead. My aim is to get fit and try and put in a few performances and maybe cement myself in the squad.”

Sport seems to be engrained in this Evans family as Oliver’s older brother Laurie is an essential part of Warwickshire Cricket Club.

Both of the brothers have followed their dream of playing sport and Oliver thinks their love of sport has driven them to where they are now.

Oliver said: “My brother is two years older than me and he is really doing well at Warwickshire Bears. Similar to me, we started out by playing all sports. We both went to Whitgift which is a really sporty school so we got involved in most sports and my Dad used to encourage us too.

“He got picked up by Surrey just after he left school. It didn’t quite work out for him because they had a pretty strong squad.

“He then went up to Warwickshire on trial and did well, got in the side and then played a lot of 2nd XI matches and finally broke into the 1st XI about three years ago and has been in the 1st team since so he has done really well.

“I am still the number one batsman in front room cricket but in the other cricket he will take that. He still rates his skills at rugby and thinks he can quit cricket and become a rugby player!”

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