Hornby prop/second-rower Adrian Shelford was one of Canterbury’s most celebrated rugby league exports of the 1980s, playing eight Tests for the Kiwis and embarking on a successful professional career in England and Australia.
The 1982-83 Junior Kiwis rep made his debuts for Canterbury and South Island as a 20-year-old in 1984, as well as winning a Grand Final with Hornby and the D.V. Syme Rosebowl as CRL’s Sportsman of the Year (he won the junior equivalent the previous season).
After another superb season at club and domestic representative level in 1985, Shelford was called up for the Kiwis’ tour of Britain and France. He was unable to crack the Test pack but played 11 matches abroad, debuting in the tour opener against Wigan and scoring tries in big wins over Cumbria and St Helens.
Shelford moved to Wellington with Upper Hutt Tigers in 1986, helping the club to two Grand Final wins and representing his new province 10 times. The 22-year-old also made his Test debut in the front-row in Papua New Guinea and represented New Zealand Māori at the Pacific Cup in 1986, and featured as a second-rower against the Kumuls in Port Moresby before starring at prop New Zealand’s stunning 13-6 defeat of Australia at Lang Park in 1987 as he and Ross Taylor overshadowed their highly-rated opponents up front.
Regarded as one of the finest young forwards in the game, Shelford was lured to Wigan by former Kiwis coach Graham Lowe for the 1987-88 English winter. His three-season stay at the famous club netted three Challenge Cup final triumphs at Wembley.
Shelford also played for Newcastle Knights in their foundation 1988 campaign, during which he also scored a try in a 66-14 thrashing of Papua New Guinea in Auckland, helped the Kiwis secure a World Cup final berth with an outstanding performance in a 12-10 eclipse of Great Britain in Christchurch, turned out for Rest of the World against Australia and played in New Zealand’s 25-12 defeat to Australia in the Eden Park-hosted World Cup decider.
Shelford’s Kiwis career came to a disappointing end in 1989. After missing the home series against Australia, his tour of Britain and France was severely hampered by injury – he played only four matches and one Test against Great Britain.
Linking with Lowe again in 1990, Shelford featured in Manly’s finals campaign that before finishing his career with two seasons at Wakefield Trinity with a knee injury forcing him into retirement at 27.
Tragically, Shelford died of a heart attack in England in 2003, aged just 39. He was a high school teacher in Wigan at the time.
His son, Kyle, later debuted for Wigan in the 2016 Super League season and had subsequent stints with Workington Town, Swinton, Rochdale Hornets and Warrington.
Adrian Shelford was honoured in 2018 when Ngāi Tahu unveiled the special taonga Te Ātanga, the Broadhurst-Shelford Trophy, ahead of the Sea Eagles’ match against the Warriors in Christchurch.
NEW ZEALAND (1985-89)
8 Tests – 1 try (4 points)
21 tour matches – 4 tries, 1 goal (18 points)
-1985 Kiwis tour of Britain and France
-1986 Kiwis tour of Australia and Papua New Guinea
-1987 Kiwis tour of Australia and Papua New Guinea
-1989 Kiwis tour of Britain and France