New Zealand Law Society - Adine Wilson: The gold-medal netballer inspired by John Grisham to break into law

Adine Wilson: The gold-medal netballer inspired by John Grisham to break into law

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Adine Wilson playing netball
Adine Wilson playing netball

Few of us could truthfully say that what we wanted to do for a career when we are eight years old we actually followed up on.

Personally, I wanted to be a train driver.

But in primary school ex-Silver Fern and now commercial lawyer Adine Wilson knew exactly what her career paths would lead to.

Ms Wilson, who played 79 times for the Silver Ferns and also captained them, is now part of the team at Auckland firm Cook Morris Quinn in its Westgate office.

“Right when I was little I wanted to be both a lawyer and a Silver Fern. I remember when you used to write those things at primary school at the start of the year what you wanted to be when you grow up, and those are the two things that I wanted to be.

“I thought lawyers appeared in court all the time, had their own offices and secretaries, and I thought it was all very glamorous. I guess it came from a TV show of the 80s.”

No one in her family had ever been a lawyer.

Those John Grisham books

As a teenager it was through reading John Grisham books that cemented her ideals to gain a career in the legal profession.

“I’d read them all, and every time there was a new one out I’d snaffle it up. I loved how he wrote about the courtroom – I loved everything about the courtroom, the standing up and debating, and the investigations, so those were the parts that particularly appealed to me.”

Nevertheless, the Commonwealth and World Cup-winning Wing Attack was almost forced to give up her legal dreams as her netballing career snowballed.

“I almost didn’t do law because in my sixth form year I travelled to Toronto for the World Youth Cup and I missed a huge amount of school, and I missed all my exams. So they ended up giving me Aegrotat passes so I did pass everything but that meant that the following year my career adviser told me I didn’t have the marks to get into law school and that they thought law wouldn’t be the journey to go on, and ‘how about doing physical education instead’. Ironically, that was harder to get into whereas you only needed bursary entrance to get into first year of law at Otago University.

“I’m really glad I opted for law. Professor Mark Henaghan was one of our lecturers and as soon as I attended one of his lectures, where he got us to act out Donoghue v Stevenson, I thought ‘oh yeah, I totally want to be a lawyer’.”

How to juggle sport and studies

Adine, who did a joint degree with physical education, says she was able to juggle her sporting career and studies by being thoroughly organised and very time conscious.

“I set myself the goal of never asking for an extension or other assistance; I just made sure I had everything done and organised so that when I would go away with the Silver Ferns I wouldn’t have assignments weighing on my mind. Obviously, there were still exams I had to study for but I just had to be overly organised so I could manage all the different facets of my life.”

That meant carrying various law books around with her while she played in Australia, England and “exotic locations” and spending any spare time studying. To get round her netball commitments she would sit exams early or she would sit special exams at a later date.

She wasn’t the only one in the squad struggling with text books, with Lesley Rumball studying to be a doctor, and a number of other Silver Ferns studying towards various degrees. Ms Wilson was admitted in 2003 but only spent one year working and returned to the profession three years ago after retiring from netball and having two children.

Gold medal winner

Adine Wilson was the New Zealand Under-21 captain and competed in two World Youth Cups, and would have a successful international career as a senior. She was called up to the Silver Ferns squad in 1999, making her debut at the age of 20 against South Africa.

Her height (1.8m), quick hands and athleticism were crucial to a team that gained incredible success for nearly a decade.

She was the captain from 2005 until 2007, played in the 1999 (silver medal), 2003 (gold) and 2007 (silver) netball World Cups as well as the 2006 Commonwealth Games where she led the Silver Ferns to a famous victory over Australia and the gold medal.

She began her career with the Otago Rebels, moving two years later to Invercargill to play with the Southern Sting, winning five national titles and finishing her career with the Southern Steel (a merger of the Rebels and the Sting) in the trans-Tasman ANZ Championship.

“I was very fortunate to have so much success with the Silver Ferns, Otago Rebels and the Southern Sting. Obviously winning the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games were the highlights but I also was fortunate to have won five national titles with the Sting and one with the Rebels.”

She admits to celebrating “a little too much and making the front page of the Herald for dancing on the tables of an Auckland bar and being kicked out.” The story horrified her mother but the Ferns had just beaten the Australians to win the 2003 World Cup after all.

She is married to former All Black and Black Cap Jeff Wilson, and they have two children, Harper and Lincoln, aged 10 and eight.

Overcoming obstacles

Ms Wilson works part-time at Cook Morris Quinn specialising in trusts, property agreements and commercial contracts – which she says is hugely satisfying.

“I really enjoy meeting clients, and helping them navigating their way through whatever project they are involved in. It’s nice to think you can help people who are in stressful situations and help guide them through those tricky times.”

She says the firm is very understanding of her role as a netball co-commentator for Sky TV and being a parent.

She has also had to deal with illness and injury. In December 2016, she fell down a ladder at the family bach, breaking her neck in two places and requiring major spinal surgery.

“I was coming down from the loft and I completely missed a rung and fell backwards.

“I don’t recommend it to anyone. I got ridiculously lucky, if you look at the stats on such injuries you would not believe how lucky I got to come out the other end. We now have stairs at the bach.”

While at the height of her netball career Adine Wilson was diagnosed with melanoma which was removed at an early stage. She blames striving to get a tan so she didn’t look pasty white in her netball dress for the cancer scare and is a strong advocate for Melanoma New Zealand.

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