Liam Messam Biography
Liam Messam Life and Career Highlights.
New Zealand’s Liam Messam is a true veteran of international rugby if ever there was one. From reaching the pinnacle of competitive rugby on multiple continents, to representing his nation, both as a member of the National Rugby Sevens Olympic squad, and as a long-standing member of the formidable All Blacks (43 test caps between 2008-2015), it’s safe to say he’s pretty much done it all.
Of course, such a storied career doesn’t just happen overnight, and Liam is one of that rare breed of players in modern rugby who can lay claim to a top-level international career spanning close to two decades.
Making his international debut in 2002 with New Zealand’s Rugby Sevens Olympic team at just 18 years of age, Liam was a prodigious young talent who was quick to win the respect of his teammates and coaches. Just two years after joining the squad, at the age of 20, Liam was named team captain.
That same year (2004), Liam was awarded as New Zealand’s Sevens Player of the Year after captaining the team to its fifth IRB Sevens World Series title. This was the first of many successes Liam would go on to have with the team, including winning two Commonwealth Games gold medals in Melbourne (2006) and Delhi (2010).
Despite early success in rugby sevens, however, Liam’s international rugby union debut didn’t come overnight. With his early specialization in sevens coming at a cost to his development in the longer union format of the game, it wasn’t until the year 2008 that Liam was finally picked up by the national rugby union team, the New Zealand All Blacks.
On the domestic side, Liam experienced a similar delayed start to his union career, only getting a permanent spot on the Waikato Mooloo’s National Provincial Championship (NPC) team in 2005. However, despite the relatively slow start in rugby union, Liam’s talent eventually shone through. With his incredible work ethic, he was able to adapt his lightning speed from sevens to long-format rugby, and, by 2006, Liam was recruited to play with the Waikato’s Super Rugby team, the Chief’s.
Indeed, besides his obvious skills on the pitch, this same work ethic is perhaps the defining feature of Liam’s long career. Even with the best genetics, no rugby player can thrive into their late 30s without a seriously big dose of hard work and determination. And thrive Liam has.
These days, Liam’s palmarès is long and includes co-captaincy of the 2012-2013 championship-winning Chief’s side, the 2015 Rugby World Cup, 182 Super Rugby matches, three seasons with Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo playing in Japan’s Rugby League One (formerly the Top League), and even a recent two-year stint playing with the French Top 14 side Toulon, where he was affectionately known as Grandpappy.
Unfortunately, as long as Liam’s list of achievements is, his career has not been without its disappointments, with a particularly difficult time coming in 2011 when he would narrowly miss the selection for that year’s World Cup squad. However, instead of giving up hope, Liam took this as an opportunity to work even harder, and he now defines 2012 as a turning point in his career.
With a fixed goal in mind and the guidance of a new coaching team at the Chiefs, Liam laid out a plan to radically improve his game and make the 2015 World Cup squad. Of course, he stuck to it and succeeded, impressing his teammates, coaches, and, most importantly, the selectors, who named him for the 2015 team.
In more recent times, Liam’s roadblocks have been of the more universal type, with Covid-19 putting a roadblock on another milestone in his career — 100 games for the Mooloos.
Unfortunately, after he was recalled by the Chiefs in 2021 for the last two games of the season, the Waikato veteran was looking likely to join the prestigious 100-game club for the Mooloos. However, Covid lockdowns forced the team to relocate multiple times to finish the season. Putting his two young school-aged boys first, Liam decided to call it quits at 98 matches — just two games shy.
Now with his professional rugby days coming to a close, Liam is finding new outlets for his work ethic and has set himself the goal of pursuing a career in professional boxing — another sport which he is fond of. He is also a co-founder of ORA CBD with Teddy Stanaway.
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