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In this episode we’ll hear about Adam’s life growing up and where his love of rugby league came from and how he helped establish the World Cup Challenging winning Warrington Wolves Physical Disability Rugby League team.

Adam Hills, comedian, radio and TV presenter who was born without a right foot and wears a prothesis and “unfortunately” is a supporter of the South Sydney Rabbitoh.

Podcast Duration: 0 minutes

Podcast Release Date: June 3, 2020

Produced by: Black Me Out Productions

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Growing Bold and a Sporting Dream

Welcome to the Grow Bold with Disability podcast, brought to you by Feros Care. A podcast dedicated to smashing stereotypes and talking about the things people with disability care about most. To help us live bolder, healthier, better connected lives. I’m journalist, Pete Timbs. And I’m Tristram Peters. I work for Disability Service Directory, Clickability and am a wheelchair user living with spinal muscular atrophy.

Today’s episode of Grow Bold with Disability is growing bold with sport and our guest is Mr. Adam Hills, a comedian, radio and TV presenter and who was also born without a right foot. And unfortunately, is a supporter of the South Sydney Rabbitohs. For the uninitiated, that’s a rugby league team.

In this episode, we’ll hear about Adam’s life growing up and where his love of rugby league came from and how he helped establish the World Club Challenge Winning Warrington Wolves physical disability rugby league team. Adam Hills, welcome to Grow Bold with Disability. G’day, a pleasure to be here.

So, Adam let’s start by jumping back in time a little bit and you were born without a right foot. Do doctors know why that happens? No, absolutely no idea. I mean, I could throw around theories, but my mom was convinced it’s because she was lifting boxes and moving to a new house before she knew she was pregnant. But in reality, no one has any idea why I was born without a right foot.

So, tell us, where exactly is it from the knee down? Is it from the ankle down that’s missing? I have a weird one. I’ve got an ankle joint on. Then it was a malformed foot, if you will, so there’s a heel, there’s kind of a little stump, but I can move it up and down with the ankle joint, and it had too little toes on top of it that I could never move. One of them had a toenail on it. And the only thing I’ve ever seen like it was when I was really young at my grandparent’s place watching a TV show, and they managed to film the formation of a foetus over time. And at a certain point of time the feet of the foetus were exactly the same as what my little right foot looked like. So, you know from that maybe at a certain point in growth some oxygen was cut off or something. Who knows? No one really knows. I can bear weight on it. I can stand on it. But it means that it’s shorter than my other leg. If I don’t walk with a prosthetic, then it’s throws my back and my hips out.

Okay. So, growing up with the prosthesis, did that limit you in any way from sporting and all that sort of thing? Cause you are kind of a sporting guy, aren’t you? Well, yeah. I mean, I grew up in the Sutherland Shire, you know, not far from Cronulla. It was a sporty place to be just generally. It never really stopped me. I mean I grew up playing and watching rugby league. I started being coached in tennis when I was probably about five, and I ended up playing that competitively. So, it didn’t really hold me back. And that’s the thing at school. Kids always pick on someone who is different. But if I wore trousers, no one could tell the difference. In fact, I remember one year when summer came around and I put a put on a pair of shorts and one of the other kids went “Hey, what happened to your leg?” And I kind of looked at him and he went “oh sorry, I just completely forgot”. So, it didn’t really hold me back in any way.

At school would you describe yourself as being academic, sporty, the class clown? What were you? I was probably more academic if I had to choose one of those. I was pretty well behaved, was pretty diligent. I worked hard. I was very polite. I was the class clown when it was my turn. So, if I had to give a presentation or speech or something like that, I would make it funny. But I wasn’t the disruptive guy. And having said that, I also played touch football. Ah, I guess I played a little bit of cricket. I played golf. I wasn’t particularly great at any off them, but I gave them all the crack and so it’s a little bit sporty. I was funny when it was my turn but I always pretty studious.

So, before we get into the rugby league side of things, let’s just quickly touch on the comedy side of things. Saying that you weren’t sort of the class clown, but you a little bit more academic. Where did that love for comedy come from? Well I was comedically academic. I was a bit of a comedy nerd. I mean, I had a dad who flew for Qantas and he would bring home comedy albums. I think one of the earliest I remember was a Peter Sellers album. There was a guy called Allan Sherman who did song parodies. And the song parody that everyone would know would be the “Hallo Muddah, Hallo Fadduh! Here I am at Camp Granada”.

He would use classical tunes and then change and write words to them and then turn them into song parodies. I guess through my dad, I developed a love of comedy. Also the other thing is my dad, because he was Qantas cabin crew, you know, he’d be away for maybe 10 days at a time, but then he’d be back for five with no work. He’d be home. And he had nothing to do. We’d get home from school, do our homework and then we’d just sit with Dad and we’d watch TV together. And it’d be like Bugs Bunny. Or it would be old episodes of MASH or The Benny Hill Show. Comedy was kind of the thing that our family really got into. And then gradually it was like Bill Cosby albums. Billy Connolly, Robin Williams. So, you know, to put it into perspective when I hosted Spicks and Specks, Allen and Miff were the music nerds and were really excited when someone like Robert Foster from the “Go Betweens” would be on the show. Whereas I was the comedy nerd, I lost my mind when “Weird Al Yankovic” came on the show.

Fair enough. So where through all of this did the rugby league love come from? The passion for that? Well, again, it came from my dad. When I was three days old, he brought a red and green toy South Sydney Rabbit into the hospital for me, which I still have by the way. He grew up in Maroubra. His dad grew up in The Rocks. He worked at Holden’s alongside John Sattler, who ended up playing for the Rabbitohs. I mean, if you grew up in The Rocks in, let’s say my granddad was born in 1918 then you were a South Sydney supporter. It’s been in our family for 100 odd years. My dad was a Rabbitohs supporter, and the other thing was, I grew up like I said in the Sutherland Shire. I wasn’t surrounded by Rabbitohs supporters. So, you cling on to it a bit more tenaciously. I think it becomes a bit of a rebellion in order to remain a Rabbitohs supporter through thick and thin when everyone around you is a Cronulla Shark’s fan.

So, you know, I grew up watching it. I grew up playing it as best I could. And then probably, you know, I played for the Jannali Boys High School B Team. Uh, and then I guess I got to about probably 13 or 14 and got to the age where, to be honest, I think mainly what happened was the guy who coached rugby league at our school left and then a new teacher came in and he took over rugby union and I didn’t really get rugby union. I was also in an age where you know, 13 or 14 the prosthetic starts to hold you back a little bit. And so then kind of tennis, which I’ve been playing all along, became my main focus. I concentrated on tennis after that.

Were you allowed to play rugby league once you hit that age with the prosthetic or not? Well, that was the other thing. I mean, it then got to the point where you know, if someone went down to tackle me around the legs, that they’re probably going to do themselves more damage than me because it was a piece of equipment going on down there.

I mean, even now that I’ve got back into it, even though I’m playing disability rugby league, for a long time when I started playing it again, I was really worried that someone was gonna hurt themselves. They’re gonna go in for a tackle, you know, it’s solid carbon. You could run over it with a car and it won’t break. And it’s also then got a titanium blade on it which is indestructible. So, I didn’t honestly, for ages I didn’t know, no one else was worried, but I was worried that I was gonna hurt someone. And then eventually one of the guys turned up the training one night in our disability team and he has an arm disability. He’s kind of injured himself in a car accident, and he has to protect it. And he had bought a couple of mixed martial arts armed guards. And I went all hang on, maybe I can get some shin guards. So I bought one for the front and one for the back. So now when I play, I have these soft cushion, mixed martial arts, Connor McGregor style shin pads on. Not for my benefit.

Just under one leg? Yes, yeah, just don’t know one leg. It’s kind of for two reasons. One, it protects them but two, it’s so obvious that it stands out. It basically says honestly don’t get your head anyway near this, you’ll hurt yourself.

So, on that, let’s go to when you were17. Tell us how a little tweet about the South Sydney physical disability rugby league team changed everything for you. Well, yeah, it was literally that. It was a tweet that said, are you aware that the South Sydney Rabbitohs PDRL team won last weekend. I had no idea what PDRL was. So, I looked it up and it was physical disability Rugby league. I didn’t even know that existed. I then went online. I watched a few videos and went “oh yeah, this looks amazing”. There are people with disabilities actually representing the Rabbitohs. So, I called up a guy called George Tonna who was in charge of the PDRL and basically had invented it. His story is fascinating.

He represented Australia in the Paralympics in 2000 in the five a side or seven aside football, in the Cerebral Palsy class. But he’d always wanted to play rugby league, so he basically invented rules for physical disability rugby league. He talked me through it. It’s nine aside. It’s a slightly narrower field. Each team has two players in red shorts, and they can’t be tackled. So, you’ve got two players in red shorts who maybe have spinal injuries or acquired brain injuries. They are touch, you touch them, and they touch you regardless of what shorts you’re wearing. Then you have got 5 contact players. And then you have two able body players who aren’t allowed to run more than 10 meters and are not allowed to score. And they are there purely to facilitate the disabled guys. He invented all of this. You know, if you knock on, it just counts as a tackle because you got people with one arm. You got people with cerebral palsy with coordination problems. It’s not fair to go “You dropped it, hand over “. All of these little intricacies he came up with. He invented this sport, so I called him up and said, “Look, you know, I’m interested in supporting and maybe, you know, I’d love to have a run for the Rabbitohs”, which, to be honest, was my first priority but I didn’t want to open with that. Let’s make it look like I’m here to help.

He said, “look mate you know you’re living in London. It’s gonna make it tricky to commute to Redfern Oval”. He said, “but as it happens”, he said. “I’ve just been contacted by someone from the Warrington Wolves rugby league team in the north of England. Maybe when you get back to London, give them a call”“And so, I went back to London. I called up this guy called Neil Kelly had a chat to him and he said, Well, why don’t you come up?” He said, “We’ve got one game left in the season and we’re gonna have a captain’s run, you know, two days beforehand, as per. Why don’t you come up? We’ll get some cameras down. We’ll get some publicity along. We’ll get some of the disabled people who work for the club and we’ll have just a bit of a run against the first-grade team”. And he said, “Bring your boots. Maybe you can have a bit of a run yourself” and I mean, that was it.

We ended up in full kit playing in the Halliwell Jones Stadium, against the actual first grade Warrington Wolves rugby league team. I mean, we’ve made a documentary about it, and I said in that documentary, if someone trying to get you back on the gear, that is some pretty pure stuff.

So, what about your daily travel for training and so forth. What’s the distance from where you’re living? I think it ends up being, I think it’s like a 600-kilometre round trip. But luckily there’s a train. I mean, this is ridiculous. There’s a train from London to Glasgow. The first stop is Warrington, and that’s an hour and 45. So every Tuesday I’m really lucky that on a Tuesday, I go into the city in London in the morning. I go to the “Last Leg” office. We spend a couple of hours planning out that week’s episode of the “Last Leg”. Then I go to Houston Station. I take a train up from Warrington. It takes me an hour and 45 to get there. We train for about two hours, and then I get an 8 30 train back to London.

Wow, that’s dedication. I get back to London about, I don’t know 11 o’clock at night. I get in home about 11 o’clock at night, but it is so like having said that it is 100% worth it. Look, the way I figure it is I could pay for a gym membership. I could go to the gym on a Tuesday night for a couple of hours. I could do my thing and get a bit of a kick out of it. Or I could pay for the train right up to Warrington. I then get to play rugby league and when I say play rugby league… Firstly, it’s full contact, so it is proper hits. It is proper bruising hits. We have a coach supplied by the club and this is all through the Wolves Foundation. They have an incredible foundation. They have disability dance classes. They have dance classes for the elderly. They have a dementia friendly cafe. They do all this amazing community work. So, they provide us with a coach, and he flogs us, absolutely physically flogs us. There was one training session a couple of months ago where at least three of us, myself included, vomited at some point during the training session. And on top of that, one of the able-bodied guys that plays with us is a guy called Sean Briscoe. Now he played for England. In the centres and I think at fullback.

So, you’re training, you’re learning rugby league which you know I haven’t played again since I was 13 or14, alongside someone who represented his country and he’s giving you tips. He’s kind of going “right on the next play you do this and you go”, man, on top of anything else, what an experience to learn rugby league at that level alongside someone who played for their country. So, it’s so addictive that every Tuesday night you know that two hour train ride I get work done on the train. I’m in Warrington, which is a complete world away from television and comedy. No one gives a toss that I’m the guy off the telly. Ah, we play rugby league as hard as we can and train for two hours. And then I sit on a train home and it’s just I have a great week after that.

Well, tell us also how did the World Club Challenge come about? And also, you gotta fill Tristram in, I don’t know if he knows this, who was your able body player on your team as well when you did the World Club Challenge in Sydney. That was pretty awesome. Well, ok so the whole idea behind the World Club challenge – when I first found out about the worlds, I thought hang on, here is a chance I could share rugby league. Why don’t we? And the first thing I did was call the producer, a guy who used to produce the Last Leg and direct the Last Leg and said, “Look, I think we can turn this into a documentary”. Maybe let’s follow with a camera but my thought was the former Warrington team let’s get them up to speed. Let’s do a fundraiser. Let’s bring them out to Australia. We’ll play an exhibition match against the Rabbitohs. I can play for the Rabbitohs. Everyone you know, everyone gets a dream tick in their box now. So, we did that. We formed the Warrington team, but then Leeds jumped onboard. Leeds went hang on! that’s a great idea. We will form a team and then we can play against each other. And then Wakefield came on board and then Casterfield came on board. So, within the space of four or five months, we had four English physical disability rugby league teams.

Now, Leeds beat us in the first game 22 to10 and it was so much harder than I thought it was gonna be. They really took this seriously. And there was, you know, the only thing English people like hitting harder than an Australian is an Australian off the television. So, they gave it to me. Now after that game, I wasn’t too depressed. It was like OK, we had a crack. We got beaten. But the director of the documentary came up. It was actually Neil from The Walls, he went “mate we can’t go out to Australia as losers. We can’t be the worst team in England. But then we go out and then have a friendly exhibition”. That’s a good point. We really need to step it up. So, we ended up winning every game after that. But as it happens, the Rabbitohs ended up winning their premiership in Sydney. So, we kind of went well hang on we are now going out to Australia are the best team in the UK. The Rabbitohs are officially the best team in Australia. This is like the World Club Challenge. We can call this World Club Challenge now.

The only problem was, I didn’t know who to play for because my dream was to play for the Rabbitohs. But I’d been training with the Wolves and you want to make the sport look as good as possible. I was having dinner one night in London with Russell Crowe, and I mentioned this to him, and I said, Look, I said, what do you think I should do? Because you own the Rabbitohs. You get that I love the Rabbitohs. And he got really seriously, and he went mate you’ve gotta earn the jersey. He said you can’t just turn up, put on the red and green and suddenly you’re a Rabbitoh. You’ve gotta train with them. You’ve gotta work with them. You’ve gotta be part of the team. I know this is exactly my problem. He said, let me think about that.

About a month later, he texted me and he went how about this? He said, how about I sponsor your jersey so that you play for the wolves, but you’ve still got the rabbit on your chest. It was a really, really, really lovely gesture because he wanted me to do my best for the sport to play with my mates. So, we did it. We ran out at ANZ, you know, we ran out with our team. I had the Rabbit on my chest next to the Wolf. The ground announcer decided to play hungry like the wolf. Because we were the Wolves, why wouldn’t you? Yeah. Then the Rabbitohs took to the field and Glory Glory to South Sydney started playing.

What did you do? I had to shut it off. I had to walk away and literally blanket out and sing something else because I couldn’t let that song get into my head before a game. And playing against them. But so as far as the able bodied player, we kind of thought, well, you know that there are a whole bunch of Aussie players who had been over to England and played for Warrington, and we thought why don’t we ask a couple of those guys who were kind of legends to step up and play with us. So the first was Matt King, who played for the Storm he played for the Rabbitohs and played for Warrington. And the second was Andrew Johns, the immortal. Joey Johns only played about three or four games for the Wire. The Wire, by the way, is the other name for the Wolves, because before they were the wolves, they were called the Wire because that was the main industry in town. So, Joey had played for the Wire, I think three or four games, and just creamed it every time. So, I ran out on ANZ Stadium with Matt King on one side of me and Joey Jones on the other.

Amazing. There was an amazing moment where I mean, two amazing moments. One was just Joey calling my name and sending a ball out to me on the wing is lovely. But there was another moment where he went right, “you grab one of our other wingers”. I think he was dead keen on putting me in for a try, and he grabbed our other winger and he went, “Tony, you go over the hills east side. We’ll get it out to him, we’ll put it out to him in the corner” and Tony went, “I can’t I don’t have a left hand. I can only catch if it comes to me on my right hand.”

You gotta tell us the result. What happened? Well, we ended up winning. I mean, I should know. I think it was 34 to 12. And so we officially became the world champions. What was lovely though was after all of that we then came back to England. So that was 2017 no 2018 that was. We came back to England. The RFL completely jumped onboard behind it in England and said, right, let’s set up a proper season now. So, it was us, Castleford, Wakefield, Leeds, Wigan. Every month we’d all get together and we’d play two matches each. By the end of the season, we played 10 matches. We were top of the table at the end of the season. We lost our first game and won everything after that. We went into the semi’s. We won the semi. We won the grand final, so we became not the first World Club champions, but the first UK champions as well.

Wow, amazing. Phenomenal. Where is it at here in Australia? I know that the Gold Coast have got a team obviously, now Sydney got a team. Have any of the other NRL’s got teams? It’s a weird one in Australia. So, in the UK, it’s the clubs and the club’s foundations that set up the team. Whereas it started off in Sydney with George Tonna maybe seven or eight years ago but separate from the NRL. It was just a group of guys that kind of got together. They were allowed to use the club’s name. So, there is the Rabbitohs, the Roosters, the West Tigers, the Sea Eagles, the Newtown Jets and I think the Paramatta Eels are starting up this year. So, there are six in New South Wales, you’re right the Gold Coast have just started one up as well, so it’s developed in two different ways in different countries.

Here the sport was invented. It’s a bit more inclusive. It’s a bit more about everyone having a go, but it’s not being overseen by the NRL, whereas in the UK, it’s overseen by the RFL and it’s in a weird way, a little bit more competitive. I think here, they kind of look at you and go do you know what your disability is, it’s not enough of a restriction that you can play. Whereas over in England, they go it doesn’t matter what the disability is, if you’re missing two fingers it’s come on, turn up and play. So somehwere between the two, we are all kind of talking at the moment about how to learn from each other and how to make it an even playing field between the countries as well as within the countries.

Fantastic love it, Perfect brilliant. I’ve a confession to make. I actually play powerchair rugby league and that involves 200-kilogram wheelchairs hitting each other. They’re like mad Max style beasts and there is something amazing about it, playing sport because doctors told me you’ll never play sport. But here I am, hitting other guys and it’s brilliant. What is about sport want? Why is there so much adrenaline, it’s just phenomenal? Well, I mean, the captain of our team has a masters I think it is in sports and mental health. And he told, look, I’m gonna be very vague about this, but I remember him saying one night that when you exercise as part of a team, you give off somewhere between five and seven times as many endorphins as when you exercise on your own. So, you think about how you feel when you go to the gym and you have a really good workout or a really good run, you’re exhausted, but you’re kind of really fired up as well. Multiply that by 5 to 7 because you’re working with other people, you’re bouncing off them. You’re working against other people. It becomes way more addictive. You get to learn to work as part of a team, you learn confidence.

Look, I’ve played wheelchair rugby league as well, not the power chair, but the kind of, you know, pushing yourself chair. Oh yeah, it’s full on. There is something about coordinating with other people in a sporting sense that whether it’s just, you know, winging it and somehow improvising a play or whether you’ve got a set play that comes off, there’s something really satisfying and addictive about doing that. And I think we found with you know, all the guys that turned up to play with us we all have all increased in confidence and mental health just from doing this, because you don’t just become buddies on the field. We have a Whats App group we are all there for each other. If someone’s having a down day, they’ll post about it will help each other out. And I found myself like my self-esteem has gone through the roof because of this and part of it was being a comedian I always thought I had to be the loser because that’s what you are as a comedian. There’s nothing funny about winning all the time, like the guy that, yeah, the comedian is the guy that gets things wrong. And so, to be out there on a rugby league field with a whole bunch of other guys counting on me. And I think maybe that was the difference with tennis, if I make a mistake at the end of the day, I walk off with my head hanging down because I’ve let myself down.

But if you’re on the rugby league field, you’ve got in PDRL eight other guys on the pitch that if you make a mistake, you’ve let them down as well. And I always had this feeling of I’m gonna stuff about I’m going to stuff it up, don’t stuff it up, don’t stuff it up. And I had a real turning point. We played a game against Leeds last year and there were big rivals and it was six all with about 30 seconds to go, and I took an intercept and scored a match winning try. Not realizing it was 30 seconds to go. And it was a stroke of luck that the ball came to me and I just grabbed it and ran and hoped for the best. But afterwards I had a moment of I didn’t stuff it up. I did alright. Nothing funny happened. We actually won. And then the next game, we planned our captain had injured himself. And so, coach took me aside and said, Hillsy, I’m gonna ask you to captain for this week. And I kind of went I don’t, again, I’m the idiot. I’m the loser, I’m the guy that makes mistakes all the time, I’m the jester. I can’t be captain. And he went mate, you are already a leader on the field it’s not that much of a step up for you.

And so, then I captained the team for that week and we won both our games and then I captained for the next two games we won again. And then when we got to the grand final, uh, Jason and I co captained and I kind of walked away from all that when I am a different, I’m so much more. This is ridiculous that at the age of 49 I’m still finding things that make me more confident as a person. But, you know, not stuffing things up and helping to co-captain a team to a premiership has just increased my mental health and self-esteem and everything. So, to answer your question sport and in particular disability sport, and this is a big thing I learned. It’s not just about playing a game, it’s about mental health. It’s about friendship. It’s about self-confidence. You know, I know I’m preaching to the converted, but I’ve been preaching for quite some time now for the last few years that if governments would realize that funding disability sport is the same as funding mental health then so much more could be achieved. Because I think sometimes people see sport and particularly disability sport as “Oh yeah, you know they deserve to have a crack? It’s not just a little funny, frivolous thing. You know, if you want to talk in financial terms for a government, the amount of money that they would save on mental health services by just letting some blokes go out and play and women cause, look, to be fair, we have we have women playing physical disability RL as well. Just letting people with disabilities play a sport that’s, you know financially is going to save you so much. Nothing better than bashing into each other. That’s good for everyone’s mental health.

The other side is the medical bills from the Rugby League. I’ve already got my power chair, so if I hurt myself, I’ve got a chair I could just drive away. Yeah, can I ask, when you’re playing power chair rugby league, I know the wheelchair version that I played. It’s pretty much, because wheelchair rugby murderball doesn’t really follow the same rules as rugby union. Whereas wheelchair rugby league does. You have to pass backwards. You have six tackles, all that kind of stuff. Is it the same for powerchair? It’s very similar. The difference is and this is gonna get really confusing, but we don’t physically have a ball. So instead, you’re gonna love this one, Adam. Instead, we all have numbers. So, I was number two in my career. And so, if someone passed me the ball they’d yell out two and I’d say got it and that signal that I’d caught the pass. So, it’s the worst spectator sport in the world because you’ve just got everyone going 2 got it. 5 got it. 6 got it. And it’s just the worst spectator sport. But playing it is so sweet. It’s amazing.

Wow, that’s great. And again, as a spectator, it might be hard to explain to someone the buzz that you get when you play it. But when you’re doing it, absolutely. You know, again, I know from Disability Rugby League, but also from Wheelchair Rugby league, man if you go over and score a try. It doesn’t matter. You know whether you’ve got a ball in your lap. Whether you’re running, whether you’re pushing, you’ve made a thing happen. And that’s what you get a buzz out of that. Yeah, absolutely.

So, what’s next for Adam Hills rugby career? Are you hanging out the boots, I mean, you are turning 50 this year mate? That’s what everyone around me keeps saying. Well, look, here are a couple of things. So firstly, my wife and kids moved back to Australia last year, my daughters were getting homesick and we figured, you know what? I film the Last Leg in 10-week blocks. I could do 10 weeks in London and then, like six weeks in Australia, 10 weeks in London, two months in Australia. Do it that way, which meant I would have to pull back on playing for Warrington. But it also meant that when I was in Australia, I could play for the Rabbitohs. So, beginning of this year, I registered with the NRL and I was about to be named on the Rabbitohs PDRL team for 2020.

Oh, my goodness. A dream comes true. If PDRL starts up, which I mean there’s talk that it might start up in the next few months. Then it’s entirely possible that this year I will play for the South Sydney Rabbitohs Physical disability Rugby League Team.

Your dreams come true. Now, oh man, if I could score a try for the Rabbitohs, that would be the happiest day in my life. Apart from the marriage and the kids. But the longer term is that I really want to make sure that a physical disability rugby league World Cup happen in 2021. So, the able-bodied World Cups being held and the women’s and the wheelchair is being held in the UK next year. I think it’s about September, October next year. Clearly everything’s up in the air with Corona Virus. Lock down, all of that kind of stuff. But my plan was, whilst I was back in Australia to talk to the NRL about coordinating with the RFL to make sure that we could get an Australian and at the very least an Australian and a New Zealand team over to play an England team at the end of 2021. Now, if my 50-year-old body is up to the task of it certainly loved to be considered for the Australians.

You might be wearing the red shorts by the mate? Never? So, the long-term plan is and this is what I love about it and whilst being in lock down. And this is again, this is the power of a Community Foundation and rugby league and physical disability rugby league. The first Tuesday night that we all went into lock down and none of us could train our coach on the WhatsApp Group just put out, he said, quick quiz lads. Who is your favourite player who is your least favourite player and which team do you support apart from the one you play for? And we all kind of answered not knowing why, and then he sent around the alphabet. But every letter of the alphabet applied to a different exercise. So, A is 15 Press ups, B is 20 crunches, C is 10 Burpees, etcetera, etcetera and he said, now you have to spell out each of those answers and film them and put them up on the group. Excuse me? So, for the next week we filmed ourselves doing these really hard workouts because Greg Inglis is a pretty easy name to spell out. The South Sydney Rabbitohs is quite a long one.

And you have been posting them on Twitter, I’ve been seeing them. Yeah, they are killer. And then the following week, when we all knew what the task was, he said, right clearly, you know what I’m looking for. So, what I’m gonna do is ask you again, But this time, all of the names go into a kind of mystery bag and I’ll just pull one out for you. And so, a few people then thought it would be hilarious to put in really long names, and this time it was soccer teams. So, I ended up with Borussia Mönchengladbach.

But again, the idea that I could possibly. If I was in lock down now and I wasn’t playing rugby league there is no way I would be doing any physical exercise. I’d be trying to, but there’d be no motivation. Whereas now the possibility that I could be playing for the Rabbitohs in a few months’ time means I’m doing those exercises every day. On top of that, I’m doing sprint training, I’m doing runs. I’m doing strength work; I’m doing whatever I can to make sure I’m in good condition. And look, maybe I won’t. Maybe the competition won’t happen or whatever, but it’s just given me something to aim for.

And certainly, I think, you know in this documentary that I made, my wife was quoted as saying. Look, it’s certainly a midlife crisis, but it’s better than buying a Porsche or having an affair. I don’t know it is playing for the South Sydney Rabbitohs. It’s up there. And considering I’ve had a fractured ankle ligament damage and was knocked out for 2.5 minutes on the field, I’d probably get the same if I had an affair. Don’t mess with Alley.

But it’s just look, it’s amazing what it’s given me personally and what it’s given everybody else in the team and it’s really you know in a lot of cases changed our lives, you know, every now and then one of the guys will put a message up on the WhatsApp group saying, You know, I know of at least three guys in that team that in the last five years or so have tried to take their own lives, and they’ve not been particularly open about it. But then they just put a little message up saying, lads, a year ago, this is what happened for me, and now you know, I’m happier than I’ve ever been because of rugby league. So, like I said, the benefits of sport when it comes to disability are not just physical, it’s mental, it’s emotional. It’s everything.

Fantastic. So, Adam. As you know, this podcast is called Grow Bold with disability. What does living a bold life mean to you? Ooh, I will tell you what. I guess I’m gonna play like Rorschach Word Test word association. I’m gonna tell you at what it means to me, through an example of something that happened to me. Especially not just growing bold but growing bold through disability. So, when I was at high school, I used to. Whenever I wore shorts to school, I would pull my socks up to my knees because I didn’t want the prosthetic to show. I knew everyone knew that I had a prosthetic, but I just didn’t want it to look stupid. I pulled my socks up to my knees, and after a while I realized I looked stupid because I had my socks pulled up to my knees. So, one day I just had a moment in the morning of going you know what? Screw this. I don’t care what anyone thinks. I’d rather people look at my leg, my prosthetic than think I’m a nerd because I’ve got my socks pulled up to my knees and I rolled my socks down and it was kind of a moment of just this is me like it or lump it type, feeling.

And of course, no one said anything about my prosthetic because they all knew. And in many ways, they kind of went well, that’s much better with your socks rolled down, doofus. For me growing bold through disability means kind of learning not to worry in a negative way, not to worry about what people think of you, but in a positive way of saying that is to just own who you are and what you look like and and just be proud of it.

Beautiful, absolutely beautiful. Fantastic. Well, Adam, mate, thanks so much for joining us today on Grow Bold with disability and listeners can find out more about Adam, and his physical disability rugby league journey on the great doco that he’s mentioned a few times.

Adam Hills take his legs currently on 10 play, and there’s also links to it in today’s episode show. Nuts Show notes, mate. Thanks so much for joining so that it was so much fun. Absolutely pleasure. It’s very rare I get to bang on about rugby league for that long without anyone telling me to shut up. You’re always welcome here, my friend.

Thank you for listening. And if you have enjoyed today’s episode that make sure you subscribe to the podcast grow bold with disability. And if you like what you heard, please take a few moments to pop over iTunes and give our a podcast, a quick rating so we can continue these conversations and encourage people to grow bold.

This podcast is brought to you by Feros Care, an NDIS partner delivering local area coordination services in Queensland, South Australia and ACT. Feros Care is a people care organization committed to helping people live bolder lives. We call it growing bold. And for over 25 years, Feros has been making it real for both older Australians and those living with disability. To find our more head over to www.feroscare.com.au

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The content and views discussed in this podcast series are those of the individuals involved. They are not necessarily condoned by, or, are the views of Feros Care or its employees.

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