William Geoffrey Abram
“An abrasive prop who worshipped the physical, confrontational side of the game which made every scrum battle personal. It also made him a perfect fit under coach Alex Evans in Wests’ 1985 premiership side which helped raise his selection stocks”, Jim Tucker 2021.
Bill Abram was a versatile front row forward whose rugby story is one of narrow misses. Untimely injury ruled Abram out of contention for two of Australia’s greatest tours, the 1984 Eighth Wallabies ‘Grand Slam’ and the 1986 Bledisloe Cup win in New Zealand.
Abram played his first rugby with the Quirindi U9s before he was sent to board at The King’s School in Sydney. Deemed too heavy to play rugby, Abram was forced to play soccer in his first year at the prep school however he managed to trim down and make the U12As twelve months later. Abram went on to play two seasons in the 1st XV (1974-75), the first in the GPS premiership winning side and the second as captain before selection in the GPS 1st XV.
In 1977 Abram went on his first senior tour, with New South Wales Country, to the Pacific, the U.S.A., Canada and New Zealand. Unfortunately, the presence of John Coolican, Peter Johnston, Sandy Muston and Ron Graham meant that competition to play state rugby was quite intense. In 1979, at the urging of the well-travelled Dick Cocks, Abram ventured westward with Wallaby Greg Shambrook and Owen Rutledge - brother of All Black captain Leicester, for a season in South Africa. Playing with Durban High School Old Boys, the experience was an eye-opener for a 22-year-old and reinforced his beliefs in fitness and hard, but fair play.
Abram returned to Quirindi in 1980 however his first break didn’t emerge until 1982 when he earned a spot on the New South Wales tour to New Zealand. Abram made his debut against Taranaki at Rugby Park (W 14-9) and back in Australia scored a try against the World XV in the Waratahs 31-13 victory.
The following year Abram injured a shoulder for Country in their 3-46 loss to Argentina. Once recovered Bruce Malouf convinced him to see out the season with Randwick. Bob Dwyer kept an eye on the club’s new recruit and prior to the final match against Parramatta, and despite being in second grade, Dwyer told Abram, “Bill, if you have a good game, you’ll be a Wallaby bolter [for the end-of-season tour] to France.” Unfortunately, luck was not on Abram’s side. Late in the match Parramatta winger Rod Batterham collided with Abram’s knee. A full reconstruction was required to repair the damage and a spring jaunt to Paris went begging.
Early in 1984 Abram’s name was included in a squad of 40 for the Eighth Wallabies tour to the U.K. however fate intervened for a second time. Abram, now with Wests (Brisbane), was doing squats as part of his weight training regime. During his set a loosely attached collar on the bar came away. Abram suffered an injury to his neck due to the rapid shift in balance and a second tour opportunity went begging.
Abram discovered J-stroke canoeing during what became an extended recovery period, one that saw him miss much of the 1985 season. He returned to Wests - alongside Bill Campbell, Julian Gardner, Troy Coker and powerful Argentine loose head prop Serafin Dengra - for the final few games of the season. Controversially Dengra was dropped, Abram brought in, and the Bulldogs went on to roll University 10-7 and win the Hospitals Cup.
In 1986 Abram toured with Wests to France for the World Club Championship only for his side to lose the semi-final to eventual champions Stade Toulousain. Back home, Abram sat behind Andy McIntyre and Cameron Lillicrap for the domestic interstate matches however it was Abram who was named as the reserve front rower for the season’s opening international against Italy in Brisbane. However, McIntyre and ‘Topo’ Rodriguez played out all 80 minutes and Abram was left unused on the bench. Several weeks later, and playing for a South Australia President’s XV against Argentina, Abram pulled a hamstring. Sadly, when the Australian selectors called to enquire of his availability for the upcoming tour to New Zealand - one where Australia famously won the Bledisloe Cup for just the second time on foreign soil - Abram was reluctantly forced to decline. The following year Abram retired to the bush as family obligations became his primary focus.
Abram wasn’t completely lost to rugby and he returned to coach first grade at Wests in 1993. The sporting genes ran deep in the Abram family. His son Geoff, a hooker, played for Australian ‘A’ Schools (2003), Australia U21s (2005 to Argentina & 2006 to France) and Queensland (2007 - 2 caps). Daughter Fliss was a top Triathlete and in 2003 she became the ITU World Junior Champion. In 2006 Fliss won selection to the Commonwealth Games and was victorious in the famed Noosa Triathlon. Two years later Fliss achieved the number one ranking during in the World Cup Series, secured four podium finishes and closed out the season as both runner-up in the World Cup series and #as the 2 ranked female triathlete.
Abram was named as a reserve alongside Mark McBain, Ross Reynolds, Brian Smith, David Know and Matt Burke for the 39-18 win over Italy at Ballymore.