Neil Joseph Adams
- 408Wallaby Number
Neil Adams was a powerfully built front row forward who was finally rewarded for his persistence and consistent form in the Newcastle competition with a first Wallaby jersey at almost 32 years of age.
Born in Wyong, Adams was educated at Marist Brothers' High School in Hamilton, Newcastle where he played rugby league. Adams left school at 14 to learn the trade of carpet laying. His tutor, Claude Dukes, a former union player and referee, sensed Adams’ potential and persuaded him to try out with the Merewether-Carlton Rugby Club.
In 1942, Adams enlisted into the Army and at war's end was with the 2/32 Battalion in the Pacific Islands. During his military service, Adams again played league and represented the Army against New South Wales, but reverted to union when he returned to civilian life. He made his First Grade debut in 1946 as a lock and the following year played his first representative game for Newcastle. Three years later he made his debut for New South Wales against Queensland and two weeks after that started for his state against the touring Maori. It was not until 1953 that Adams played a fourth match for New South Wales, against Queensland, in the lead up to the final trials for that season’s tour to South Africa only to be omitted from the key Australia vs. The Rest fixture. Phil Tressider of The Daily Telegraph wrote, “Adams has done everything right this season, but was chosen only in the Probables against the Possibles”. If that was not disappointing enough the situation turned farcical on match day. On his way down to Sydney, Adams’ car broke down and as a result he did not arrive at the S.C.G. until after kick-off. In a decision that was described by fellow players as “criminal” the officials simply refused to allow Adams to take the field and his final opportunity to make the squad was lost.
Adams shrugged off the disappointment a year later when he impressed on the Combined Country tour of New Zealand. In 1955, and somewhat helped by the absence from representative football that year of incumbent Wallaby tighthead prop Col Forbes, Adams was chosen for his first Wallaby tour, to New Zealand. Six days before his 32nd birthday, Adams ran out for his Test debut in Wellington. Unfortunately Adams missed the second Test with injury however his disappointment was soothed somewhat by the fact that his absence gave good friend and Country front row partner Don Strachan a Test debut at Carisbrook.
In 1956 a cartilage operation kept him sidelined for most of the season and from then until his retirement at the end of the 1958 season he concentrated more on club football. Adams insisted that the high point of his rugby life was when his beloved Merewether-Carlton won the Newcastle Premiership in 1958. He went on to become a Country selector for six years, a coach for three years and a committee member for 15 years Adams also served three years as President of the Newcastle Rugby Club.
Neil Adams played one Test for Australia and will forever be Wallaby #408.
1955 Adams won his first Test cap in the front row alongside fellow debutant Jim Cross and Nick Shehadie in the 8-16, 1st Test loss to New Zealand at Athletic Park.