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Waikato rugby’s Dick Adam follows in father’s footsteps

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Dick Adam in action for Waikato.

The Adam family part 2: The Waikato Rugby Union has a long history of producing standout players. Waikato Herald reporter Jesse Wood is looking at this talent of the past and what they have been up to. Last month, he met with Richard Adam snr, now Jesse talks to his son.

Well-known 1970s-1980s Waikato rugby rep Richard “Dick” Adam jnr followed in the footsteps of his father, farming jersey cows and donning the local provincial jersey on more than 50 occasions.

Born in 1956, Adam and his family lived at Panetapu near Wharepūhunga and the Pūniu River.

He started his schooling at the rural Wharepapa South School.

“We lived on Newman Rd and it wasn’t a through road, but once they put it through, Korakonui was the closest so we moved school,” Adam said.

Adam played his early rugby at Korakonui, playing hooker in his first game before quickly moving to the backs.

He moved on to Te Awamutu Intermediate School and joined the Te Awamutu United Club.

From there he was selected for the prestigious Te Awamutu Gwynne Shield team.

However, he found that rugby interfered with his musical talents and decided to give up his Gwynne Shield spot to play the piano accordion in various music competitions.

In the late 1960s, the Adam family moved near Kihikihi where Adam still lives.

At Te Awamutu College he made the First XV in his fourth year, first at first five-eighth and later at fullback.

In 1972 he played in the inaugural Northern Region under-16 years tournament at Hamilton, which the home side won.

This was followed by two seasons in the Waikato under 18 team, then Waikato Under 21 and Under 23.

The 1972 Te Awamutu College First XV, winners of the Tri-Colour trophy. Dick Adam is back-row, middle.
The 1972 Te Awamutu College First XV, winners of the Tri-Colour trophy. Dick Adam is back-row, middle.

After leaving college Adam joined Te Awamutu United playing for their junior team and then for a season in the seniors.

“Bush Macky came to see me. I had a chat with him and moved to Te Awamutu Old Boys so I could play first-division rugby and have a crack at Waikato.”

In 1978, Adam’s first year with Old Boys, he achieved his goal of Waikato selection.

“It was only through luck in some ways because they had the All Black fullback, the Māori All Black fullback Andy Baker – they were playing wing and five-eighth – and Trevor Irwin was at fullback. So they had three already,” he said.

“In the first game of the season, all three got injured and I came at short notice to play against Auckland in the annual Queen’s Birthday game in Hamilton. I had an average game but we won quite comfortably.”

That day at Rugby Park saw Adam become Waikato #736.

After his father Richard Adam snr had played 52 games for Waikato from 1949-1953 and 1955-1956, Adam says that it meant a lot to be selected.

“It was quite special that we’d both done it. I remember one day at a Ranfurly Shield game – my father held the record for most points for Waikato in Ranfurly Shield games at that stage – and [Waikato coach] George Simpkin revved me up and said that seeing I wasn’t the kicker, I’d have to score a lot of tries to get there,” Adam said with a laugh.

“The next weekend [after my debut] we were playing the top team, Hamilton Old Boys, and I played probably my best game ever in club rugby. George Simpkin happened to be there to see it.”

Simpkin then asked Adam to play centre for the rest of the provincial season.

In 1979, Adam severely dislocated his ankle in a club match and the specialist didn’t think he would play rugby ever again.

After missing the whole season, Adam went on to appear another 67 times (75 total) for Waikato between 1980 and 1984, where he scored 215 total points off the tee and via the try line.

He played at second five-eighth, centre, wing and fullback – a versatile player.

The 1990 Te Awamutu Rugby Sub-Union team, holders of the  Peace Cup for the fourth consecutive year. Captain Dick Adam is front row, fourth from right.
The 1990 Te Awamutu Rugby Sub-Union team, holders of the Peace Cup for the fourth consecutive year. Captain Dick Adam is front row, fourth from right.

Like his father in the early 1950s, Adam played for Waikato during the great Ranfurly Shield tenure of the 1981 and 1982 seasons.

It was said that with his speed, side-step and swerve, Adam excelled in the free-running attacking style of play encouraged by Simpkin with his remarkable counter-attacking skills.

Like his father Adam snr, Adam was a farmer and it was a juggling act between rugby and his career.

“I ended up giving up playing for Waikato because we bought extra land and extra cows and I just couldn’t rely on other people to do everything for me [if I got injured],” he said.

Although he gave up on representative rugby, Adam continued playing club rugby for Te Awamutu Old Boys, and then Te Awamutu Sports from 1990 onwards, as he loved playing Peace Cup matches for the Te Awamutu Sub-Union.

Within this period he was part of the record-breaking Peace Cup tenure, where Te Awamutu held the cup from 1987-1991.

As they were unbeaten for so long, all the games were played at home, close to the farm.

“There were a few of us that decided that training all year was too much with work. So we played senior B [for Te Awamutu Sports] where we’d only do a little bit of training,” Adam said.

“Then when it came to the end of the season, we’d get stuck into training and make the Peace Cup team. We were unbeaten for a few years in the senior Bs.”

Adam completely retired from rugby at the age of 36. He said he enjoyed being on the field.

Playing against the British and Irish Lions was one of his highlights, while having the same coaches Barry Fletcher (Te Awamutu Sub-Union) and Simpkin was a big help.

Since retiring, Adam has been involved with the Te Awamutu Jersey Cattle Club, running his Carnmor Jersey Stud and has been a judge as well as a board member for Jersey New Zealand.

Both quiet achievers, the loyalty of Richard Adam jnr and snr to Te Awamutu area and Waikato rugby hasn’t gone unnoticed. They will forever be etched in the region’s oval ball history books.

Jesse Wood is a multimedia journalist based in Te Awamutu. He joined the Te Awamutu Courier and NZME in 2020.

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