Adam Wallace-Harrison may have hung up the boots in 2013 after a twelve year professional Rugby career which took him from Perth to Brisbane, Canberra, Japan and then back to Brisbane again, however ‘Wally’ remains actively involved in Rugby to do this day.
Front of mind is the retention of Wallace-Harrison as one of three Co-Opted Directors on RUPA’s board, a position which the former RUPA President takes very seriously.
“I initially got involved with RUPA back in 2012,” Wallace-Harrison explains over the phone from Tallebudgera, where he and wife Taryn live with their three young children. “I was asked to become President of RUPA when Adam Freier retired, basically as natural progression because I was the next-oldest bloke still running around!”
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In all seriousness, Wallace-Harrison’s ascension to the role came at a crucial time for The Rugby Union Players’ Association; joining Freier in retirement were fellow Wallabies Stirling Mortlock and Nathan Sharpe, while former Waratahs’ Player Director Daniel Halangahu moved overseas.
In the months following Wallace-Harrison’s appointment as President, the Wallabies appointed a new Head Coach (Ewen McKenzie) and the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) appointed current Chief Executive Officer Bill Pulver.
In our last Past Player feature, we caught up with Gene Fairbanks.
So why did Adam want to be President of RUPA, and why does he remain involved today?
“Player welfare had always been something that was close to my heart, so I saw (the Presidency) as a good opportunity to get involved with what was happening behind the scenes. It really appealed to me that I would have the opportunity to help out the young guys who were coming through.
“Post-Rugby, I’ve remained on the RUPA board as I think it’s a great way to help out and stay involved in the game. Everything’s changing so much in Rugby and players are getting younger and younger, so if I can help from that welfare perspective then that’s a real bonus. I have tried to make myself available to players and I’d like to think I am well equipped to help them out when they ask for it.
“There is also the experience that comes from sitting on a board of Directors which I am able to take into my professional dealings elsewhere, and I’ve taken a lot out of working alongside people such as (RUPA Chairman) Bruce Hodgkinson, (former CEO) Greg Harris and (current CEO) Ross Xenos.”
Wallace-Harrison hails from Perth and represented Western Australia at U21 level before relocating to Brisbane to play for Sunnybank, and ultimately the Reds. He then moved to the Brumbies in 2005, making over 30 appearances in Canberra before three years in Japan with Kobe and NTT.
Finally, Adam returned to Brisbane in 2011, playing almost every game as the Reds won the Super Rugby competition and adding a number of further appearances in the two following seasons before retiring after the 2013 campaign.
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While he modestly plays down his outstanding professional career, Adam long realised the cut-throat nature of the sport and was always well advanced with planning for life after Rugby.
“I had studied finance throughout my career, and worked at St. George Bank, Walter Turnbull Accounting and The Bank of Queensland during my career, so I was always going to get into that field in one way, shape or form,” he explains.
“Initially, I worked with a company called Alliance Leasing which was a salary packaging and outsourced payroll company. It was a fantastic job as I transitioned into life after Rugby and they were a great company to work for who pride themselves on customer service and offer a fantastic product, as well as putting a lot of effort into staff education and training.
“Then the opportunity came to go out on my own and set up a finance company, which is what I am doing now working under the Loan Market banner but operating as our own business and doing a lot of work with residential home loans, and helping a lot of footy players along the way.
Click here to find out more about how Adam can help you with your finances.
“It’s not just helping them with home loan applications but in fact preparing them in regards to managing their money when they’re first involved in the game and attitudes towards saving and investing, which I didn’t really get much help with when I was playing the game.”
Wallace-Harrison still likes to swap the briefcase for the boot bag at former Club Sunnybank., where he has been coaching for the past four years, and he’s looking forward to seeing some of the Club’s graduates in action in the Super Rugby competition this year.
“I saw coaching as a great opportunity to stay involved in the game and hopefully help take some kids through from grassroots footy into professional Rugby, and there’s actually a number of them who are contracted with the Reds now which is exciting to watch.
“Junior Laloifi is somebody who has a tremendous amount of talent, and who burst onto the scene as an Australian Rugby Sevens player with genuine gas and a good motor on him. He’s always had the talent but he had to go back to Club land to get re-established, and then off the back of two very good Buildcorp NRC competitions with Brisbane City he has picked up a contract at the Reds and I’m expecting big things of him.
“Henry Taefu has had a few injury setbacks along the way, but now he has the opportunity with the Reds and looks likely to be taking it with both hands; it’s looking likely that he will get some good game time this year as well. And of course there’s Jake McIntyre who came onto the scene last year and is going to get a lot of minutes in the number 10 jersey in 2016, so I am looking forward to seeing how all three of them go.”
It’s at Club land that Wallace-Harrison sees the biggest challenges for Australian Rugby in 2016.
Click here to find out what four leading professional Rugby players identify as the code’s greatest challenge heading into the new season.
“For mine, the biggest issue heading into 2016 is establishing where and how community Rugby fits into the Australian Rugby cycle,” Wallace-Harrison says. “We’ve seen progress with great pathways into professional ranks, but how do we keep the grassroots players in lower grades involved as players, fans and volunteers?”
“Every state is going to be different in times of their governance and how they operate, so that will be interesting to watch. Also, it used to be that Rugby players worked or studied before they became professional and therefore had something to focus on outside of Rugby, but professional players are getting younger and sometimes even getting signed straight out of school so we need to continue to ensure they’re getting involved in things outside of Rugby or are at least conscious of it.”
Wallace-Harrison leaves the interview on a positive note, with the former Australia A representative tipping his hat to the Wallabies for their performances at the Rugby World Cup in England last year.
“There’s a lot of hurdles to jump over before we return to the glory days of the mid to late 1990’s, but obviously what the Wallabies were able to do at the Rugby World Cup and the flow-on effect from that is going to be enormous,” he said. “They did really well to get to the final and play the way that they did, and I think it really rejuvenated the interest in Australian Rugby.”