Adam Hills: My Rabbitohs story
Adam Hills is an award-winning television presenter and stand-up comedian best known in Australia for his role presenting Spicks and Specks.
An all-round funny man, now at home in London, he’s carved a name for himself as the host of The Last Leg, a British comedy and late night talk show now entering its seventh year on air.
In addition, Adam, who was born without a foot, is training to be a Physical Disability Rugby League player for Warrington Wolves in the UK.
Well before Adam hit the limelight, however, he was a South Sydney Rabbitohs tragic, and still is.
How it all began
Memories of the likes of Phil Blake, Mario Fenech and Craig Coleman running around Redfern are permanently etched into his mind with the likes of Sam Burgess, Greg Inglis and Adam Reynolds fanning the fire and passion that he feels for South Sydney. A flame that was passed down from his founding fathers.
“My Grandfather was born literally next to the Sydney Harbour Bridge on Lower Fort Street in 1918, when he was a kid if you were brought up in that area you supported the Rabbitohs, then when he got married he moved to Maroubra.
“My dad and his brother were Rabbitohs supporters. But then when my dad got married he moved to the Shire so to make sure I was a Rabbitohs supporter at just three days old he brought me a red and green toy bunny into the hospital and I’ve still got that bunny now in my daughter’s bedroom.”
Following in the Hills tradition, Adam makes no secret of passing on his passion to his two daughters Beatrice and Maisie who have become naturalised Souths fans by birth.
“As soon as I had a little girl I thought I don’t care I’m signing her up. My eldest is seven so she’s got seven lanyards, seven membership cards, every year it’s a new football or a scarf.”
He laughs. Whilst the tyranny of distance of being based in the U.K or Victoria has impeded his daughters chances of seeing Souths live, it hasn’t stopped Adam from sitting Beatrice in front of the television.
“She’s watched a few games. I’ve scared her a few times when I’ve yelled quite loudly whether something good or bad is happening. I haven’t taken her to a live game yet, that might be a little way off.”
As for Maisie, Adam paints a similar picture. “In fact I scared her a lot more because she was younger. She was born in 2013, I remember watching the final series with her here in London in 2014, she wasn’t even a year old and I scared her a few times when I got overly excited."
A meeting of moments
For someone who’s been a Souths supporter for so long, it can tough trying to pick out a favourite moment. Of course the 2014 Grand Final springs to mind, but it was a collection of moments that came together to form one of greatest days in Hills’ life.
“When I was about seven, one of our teacher’s husband played for Souths. His surname was Glasscock, he went to a reunion and she said ‘would you like to get some autographs?’. I didn’t even know what an autograph was, I thought I was going to get photos of all the players.
“The next time she came to school the autograph book had all these scribbles in it and I said what are these?! And then my dad pointed out that these were all the signatures, so I looked through, I’m pretty sure Eric Simms is there, John Sattler, Bob McCarthy, Michael Cleary, George Piggins. I’ve got this amazing group of Rabbitohs legends in my autograph book.
“Years later I went to a guy who makes my prosthetic leg who’s also friends with Mark Ellison. He organised for me to go to a training session and Mark came out with a training singlet that he signed but he got all the players to sign it as well so there was Ian Roberts, Craig Coleman, Michael Andrews, I think Les Davidson on it.
“When I went to the Grand Final in 2014 I had the autograph book in my backpack and I was wearing the singlet. All my favourite Rabbitohs moments came together on that day with the autographs and the singlet.
“The next year I went and watched them in the World Club Challenge which was amazing because I ended up spending the second half sitting right next to Russell Crowe and Djimon Hounsou who was also in Gladiator.”
Heroes and villians
Like every die hard Souths fan, Adam has his favourites. Neil Baker springs to mind with this goal kicking ability and combination with Craig Coleman. It’s hard not to forget these type of characters, the same could be said for his least favourite player following a tour around Warrington’s Stadium by Foundation Director Neil Kelly.
“[Warrington] have got a wall of fame, Neil was pointing out Phil Blake and I said ‘wow Phil Blake played for Warrington that’s amazing!’, then he goes ‘there’s Les Boyd’ and I said ‘he was the dirtiest player ever! He used to eye gouge people!’
“It was such a gut reaction to Les Boyd and I said don’t show him to me as he’s an absolute grub! 30 years after I used to watch him play and I still react really violently against him.”
It’s safe to say for most Rabbitohs supporters that their most hated team would be leaning towards the 'Sydney' Roosters with Manly Sea Eagles a close second. For Hills, this is the other way around. It's made even more enjoyable courtesy of an infamous incident back in 1988.
“My first response would be Manly. I remember going to a game at Brookvale Oval and very early on in back play seeing Ian Roberts kneeling on Cliff Lyons and just punching him senseless back in the days when it was a game plan!
“We ended up winning that game but had the two points taken off us because Souths brought on a reserve who hadn’t been registered properly. If my memory serves me correctly his name was Scott Wilson.”
Into the action
Being a spectator of the game for long, it’s always been a dream for Hills to run out in the Rabbitohs’ jersey, bleachers packed and fans cheering. Funnily enough, the cherished comedian’s dream might just become a reality thanks to the disability league that he’s helped kick-off in the UK - albeit in a different kit.
“I’ve started playing disability league here in England with Warrington. It’s the thing I’m talking about most to people in my life. They’re like, don’t you host a TV show as well? And I’m like I don’t care about that I’m playing disability rugby league - it’s awesome.”
Adam’s original plan was to bring Warrington out to Australia, where he would finally get the chance to strap up the boots as a Rabbitohs’ player. However, there’s some hurdles that must be jumped for that to happen.
“It’s not confirmed yet, I can’t see any reason why it can’t happen in fact, earlier in the year I was texting Russell Crowe about it because he’s been on the last leg a couple of times and we’ve swapped numbers so I was texting him saying listen, I’m going to try and do this thing how do you feel about it? And he said mate, I’ll do whatever I can do to make it happen.
“He said if there’s any hurdles let me know and I’ll do what I can to clear them. I think the hardest part will be getting the money to get the teams out to Australia but from what I can tell there’s no reason why it won’t happen.”
There’s plenty to look forward to in 2018 for Adam. The prospect of donning a Souths jersey in the Disability League is one, but the long awaited NRL season is another with a new coach, new players, the development of juniors and the long awaited return of Greg Inglis topping that list.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what Anthony Seibold brings to the team, I’m looking forward to a lot of the young blood that came into the team. Dane Gagai playing for us and especially the return of Greg Inglis with him behind the ball. They’re going to be a really exciting team to watch this year.”
We couldn't agree more.
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