Adam Freier has been enormous for the RaboDirect Rebels. From his deeds on the training track guiding the young Rebels squad and out on the playing field, and his efforts to promote the game here in Victoria, Freier has always put the Club first.
But it could have all been so different had he followed in his father’s footsteps.
Freier’s father Laurie was a high profile rugby league player and coach, yet the younger Freier was found playing club rugby for Randwick, the famous breeding ground of many former Wallabies.
His first break came at age 18 when he was selected in the Australian Schoolboys team. This was followed rapidly by selection in the Australian U19s side that same year.
The following year Freier captained the Australian U19s. He would also captain the national U21 side, leading them to the 2001 U21 Southern Hemisphere Championship final against the Junior All Blacks, in a side that also had fellow Rebels’ centurion Mark Gerrard.
He signed with the Brumbies in 2000, earning six caps between 2000 and 2002. He played mostly provincial games in his first years there, with his Super 12 debut against the Reds in 2002.
He shifted to the Waratahs and played 81 games for the New South Wales franchise, breaking the great Phil Kearns’ record for the most games by a hooker for the club. During his time there he consolidated his place in the Wallabies line-up.
By 2006 he’d locked down the hooking role with the Waratahs and was the team’s captain in the absence of the injured Phil Waugh. It was a standout year as he won the Herald Cup, the Sydney Media award for best player and the Matthew Burke Trophy, the Players’ Player of the Year Award.
He won Wallaby selection while still at the ACT, selected for the Spring Tour against Argentina, and by 2006 he was the run-on hooker. He played 25 times for the Wallabies and went to the 2007 Rugby World Cup in the UK and France. He was named in the 22 for all the Pool matches at that World Cup, scoring tries against Japan and Canada.
Success came at a price for the Waratahs hooker, battling a series of recurring injuries. In 2009 he succumbed to both calf and bicep injuries that sidelined him for eight games. Then in 2010 he had surgery to correct problems with discs in his spine. He would play just one half of a rugby match that year.
Despite his injuries the Rebels approached him. Then head coach Rod Macqueen spoke highly of Freier when the Rebels acquired his services. Commenting to Rupert Guiness of The Age, Macqueen said:
“Adam is one of the most respected players in Australian rugby…he is very highly regarded by his peers. During our discussions with him, we were particularly impressed by his commitment to ensuring the Melbourne Rebels are successful.”
When he arrived in Melbourne, he was still shaking off the residual effectives of his rehabilitation. Freier was on the verge of making his debut but was sidelined with a niggling calf injury. He would play three games for the Rebels in their inaugural year, against the Stormers, Brumbies and the final home game of the year against the Force where he scored his first try in Rebels colours.
He started in the first three games of 2012, slotting in between Nic Henderson and Laurie Weeks. His try against the Cheetahs in Week Four was his 14th Super Rugby try and his second for the Rebels. With ball tucked under the right arm, he drove the maul to the right and peeled off to score. It’s exactly the work rate and effort any Super Rugby side needs from a world class rake.
While he has been a solid contributor on the field, perhaps his most important work has been off it. He’s promoted the Rebels and the game through his Rugby Heaven column, and made a conscious effort to promote grass roots rugby in Victoria. When he finally came back from injury he chose to make his return through the Melbourne Unicorns, a premier division team in Victoria rather than through a Shute Shield match. He commented to the Randwick website on the eve of his long awaited comeback:
"I could have played in Sydney but decided to put back into Victorian rugby," he said.
"I think the last match I played there was 50,000 at Homebush and I dare say there won't be that many at Northern Oval."
He’s done his fair share of engaging the fans as well. He has a knack for walking the fence at AAMI Park, with a grin and a hand shake, thanking the fans with a quick word that makes them feel like they just scored the inside scoop.
Of his 99 games to date, 12 have been with the Rebels. He’s unlucky that injuries have stalled the milestone game for so long. Somehow though, it seems entirely appropriate Adam Freier’s 100th game comes about in Rebels colours.
Congratulations on 100 games Adam, may there be many more.