#TackleTheToughStuff: Adam Swift
In 2012, Adam Swift made his first team debut for his boyhood team, St Helens. He grew up in a passionate rugby league family where the sport was engrained from an early age - no more so than through his Grandad, Harold.
Harold was devoted to rugby league throughout his life - he was a founding member of the British Amateur Rugby League Association (BARLA) and took one of the first touring amateur teams overseas to Australia, New Zealand and Papa New Guinea.
He was also awarded an MBE for 50 years’ service to rugby league. The sport was, is and continues to be a huge part of Adam’s family.
“My Grandad and my family have always been a massive rugby family.
“He used to sit in his living room watching every rugby game he could on his massive TV which was about a metre away from him and cost him about a fiver a day to run because it’s that big!”
Adam’s family have supported him since the beginning of his rugby league journey - his dad coached him at his amateur club - Blackbrook - and his family, including his Grandad, were regulars at his youth games.
“He always gave me an honest opinion after my amateur games on a Sunday. All the family would go to my Nana and Grandad’s on a Sunday after a game.
“We’d always sit and have some tea and biscuits – I’d always sit near my Grandad and I’d get the honest opinion off him from my games.
“His opinion mattered most, he’s an old guy and old guys in rugby league’s opinions are always right!”
As Adam progressed through the amateur game and earned his first professional contract with his boyhood club, it was a massive achievement not just for him, but for all his family.
“For the likes of me to start being introduced to rugby, to signing my first contract at Saints, it was a dream come true for me and my family. Being a home-grown lad as well, like I say, it was a dream come true.”
From there, he received his first call up to the St Helens first team ahead of their round four Challenge Cup clash against their old rivals, Widnes Vikings.
“I got the call from Mike Rush, and he gave me the heads up at the beginning of the week that I might be playing.
“I go back to tell my family and tell my Grandad and they’re over the moon and can’t wait to watch me.”
On the morning of Adam’s first team debut, he woke up eagerly anticipating what promised to be a huge occasion for him and his family.
“It gets to the day of the game, and I wake up to go downstairs, I was buzzing, not able to sleep. I got to the top of the stairs and my dad’s a wreck at the bottom of the stairs.
“My dad doesn’t really show emotion and he’s got his hands in his head sat on the stairs and stood up – I knew something wasn’t right.
“He called me down the stairs and said your Grandads gone, your Grandad’s died.
“I just couldn’t believe it. The timing, everything. In my eyes, it was all he ever wanted to see, one of his grandchildren playing the professional game that he’s loved and committed so much of his life to.
“I wake up waiting to do him proud and he slipped away in his sleep comfortably, and that was that.”
After a conversation with his dad and coach Mike Rush, Adam made the decision that he would play and try to do his Grandad proud.
“I said I want to play; I want to do him proud. I was emotional, I was trying to not think about it.”
Saints got the win, albeit narrowly, and Adam had just made his first team debut. But all of that paled in comparison to the emotion that was felt after the final whistle.
“It was a tough day. It was a tough day for me and the family.
“It was great to make my debut but that was completely overshadowed by the passing of my Grandad. It was devastating.”
Such was the impact that Adam’s Grandad had not just on him, but on the whole rugby league community in St Helens, their fixture the following week - another match against Widnes at home in the league – was used to remember and celebrate Harold’s life. It was also Adam’s Super League debut.
“We played Widnes again and that game was to remember my Grandad – we had a minute’s applause for my Grandad and they showed a little clip of him on the screen.
“We said some really nice words about him before the game and I couldn’t have written it - I scored three tries in that game and got Man of the Match.
“It was like a fairy tale ending in respect to my Grandad. Every single one of my family were there and it was just unreal.
“We had the low from him passing the week before and with my Super League debut being in honour of my Grandad, we couldn’t have done him more proud.”