How Covid and a neck injury reset Silver Fern Adine Wilson’s family priorities

How Covid and a neck injury reset Silver Fern Adine Wilson’s family priorities

04/01/2021

Adine Wilson is just back from her youngest son Lincoln’s morning cricket match and is preparing for big brother Harper’s afternoon game. Saturdays mean a full day of cricket in the Wilsons’ Auckland household.

“It’s just the usual juggle of trying to get everyone there and fed with all the right equipment,” says the former Silver Fern, whose husband Jeff Wilson is in Hamilton for the day, doing the commentary for a pre-season rugby match.

It’s the juggle many parents know well, but the difference is not all parents are former national sporting reps. Adine is well known for her role as the captain of the Silver Ferns, leading them to their Commonwealth Games victory in 2006, and Jeff for being a “Double All Black”, playing for both the All Blacks and the Black Caps.

Their boys have reached an age – Harper is 12 and Lincoln 11 – where they are well aware of their parents’ fame.

“Our youngest is so gorgeous,” says Adine. “He used to go up to people and be like, ‘That’s my dad over there, he used to be an All Black.’ Jeff would shake his head and go, ‘Lincoln, can you please not do that?’

“Harper, being a little bit older, doesn’t shout it to the rafters quite as much, but he is certainly proud regardless.”

Asked if the boys feel a certain pressure because of their parents’ achievements, Adine nods. “I think the eldest does, yeah. They both love their sport absolutely, but our eldest is very competitive. He gets fired up at times – he gets that off his father. Sometimes I’m like, ‘Oh, my goodness, dial it down a little bit, please!’

“It’s harder as they get older because people are on the sideline saying, ‘That’s Jeff Wilson’s son on the wing’ – and you know there is going to be comparisons, but we’ve spoken to both the boys about that and we just reiterate that what makes us proud is that they’ve given it their best.”

She says while both have a natural ability in sport, whether they play competitively in the future is up to them. “The only rule we have in our house is you’ve got to play at least one team sport in summer and winter. They can choose to play individual sports if they want as well, but we know personally how important being part of a team is.”

And with Harper turning 13 in April, the Wilsons believe sport is more important than ever. “There’s so many fabulous things about sport, but knowing that they’re busy all-day Saturday, they’ve used a whole lot of energy, and they’re not bored and wandering the streets is another massive plus,” adds Adine.

The couple like to lead by example and still play team sport themselves. “It’s really important that the kids see us keep playing and know you don’t just stop when you get older. I’ve been playing basketball and touch rugby for a number of years now. I’m getting slower and slower, which is really disheartening, but it’s still lots of fun. Jeff still plays basketball and touch, but his big love is golf.”

Adine has given up on running – it hurts her knees too much – but she’s recently taken up reformer Pilates.

“All of a sudden at 41, I felt quite weak, and after having to do weights for so many years, I despise them, so a friend suggested reformer Pilates, and it’s been amazing.”

Apart from when she has to balance on the reformer – that unfortunately brings back some bad memories. In December 2016, Adine was up on a ladder at their Mangawhai bach when she fell and broke her neck.

“That whole year was crazy,” Adine recalls. “That happened and then we lost our dear friend Tania Dalton. It is a hard year to think about and Jeff certainly hates me talking about it. When someone brings it up, he says, ‘I’m leaving. I don’t want to hear about it.'”

Adine hasn’t had any lasting effects from the fall, something she puts down to quick thinking by those around her.

“I was exceptionally, exceptionally fortunate that everyone did the right things at the right time. Apart from a couple of scars, no one would be any the wiser that I’d had major spinal surgery, and have a whole lot of nuts and bolts in my neck.”

Asked about her memories of the fall, Adine says she remembers being quite calm.

“I can’t explain why, but I never thought at the time that I’d broken my neck – you just don’t think that. The fact that I lost feeling for a while, that was scary, but it came back and maybe I felt like I needed to be calm so Jeff wouldn’t panic.”

The issues didn’t end post-surgery – Adine found herself fainting afterwards, something she put down to possible concussion.

“That was not ideal to have a neck brace on and you are fainting,” she says in her characteristically understated manner.

Asked how she coped after the fall, she says she recovered well and life has mostly gone on as usual, albeit a few things she avoids now.

“I certainly don’t like getting on ladders now. I don’t even like standing on a chair.”

It’s meant that her latest task – cleaning out the attic – has been a family mission and one that started over lockdown.

“I have not gone into the attic once – Jeff passes the boxes down to me!” smiles Adine. “We literally have boxes from when we moved to Auckland. There is memorabilia and things that have never been unwrapped, and it’s actually embarrassing that we have not gone through it.

“Harper was going through stuff and went, ‘Mum, is this a Halberg?’ I was like, ‘Yes, that’s a Halberg award and it probably shouldn’t be sitting in a box gathering dust!'”

It’s been an eye-opener for Lincoln and Harper.

“Both our grandparents were amazing at cutting out articles, so we’ve just got stacks of old articles and so many old videos. We found an old video player, so we have been showing the boys some of the old footage.”

And there’s a mission behind the treasure hunt – each time she opens a box, she’s hoping there will be a glint of gold. When she and Jeff moved their belongings to Auckland in 2009, Adine lost something very special to her.

“I had moved to Invercargill for one more season with the Southern Steel and Jeff moved up to get settled, and so we didn’t unpack everything until about a year later. It was then I realised I had lost my gold medal from the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne,” she says with a sharp intake of breath.

“I’m so embarrassed – I’ve looked and looked over the years and it’s never turned up, so every time we go through boxes or open a box, I go, ‘Please be in here’, but no luck so far.”

The attic cleaning was spurred on by Covid and like many, it’s also sparked a change in priorities for the Wilson family. After spending more time with her family in lockdown, Adine wanted that to carry on. That has meant pushing pause on her career as a commercial lawyer.

“Just like everybody, Covid just really makes you think about where your priorities lie. The kids are both at intermediate this year and while we are still going to need to be taxi drivers for a long time, this is my last chance to go on school camps with them and help out at sports days. I want the opportunity to do those things.”

It’s unlikely that she will be bored. She’s a netball commentator, is on a number of boards for netball and is also an ambassador for Melanoma New Zealand, spreading the word about being sun smart and regularly checking your skin, following her own scare at 25.

Jeff and Adine were married in 2004, and so are coming up to 17 years of marriage. Asked what the secret has been to their happy partnership, Adine says independence – from each other and from the children.

“We have always made an effort to have time for just the two of us,” she explains. “We love our children dearly, but we are very fortunate that our parents at different times have offered to have the kids so we can have holidays away, even if it’s just for a couple of nights.

“We are also very supportive of each other being individuals. So, Jeff goes off with his mates and plays basketball, and I go away and play too, so we’re not in each other’s pockets all the time. I think that’s a big part of it.”

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