Life could have turned out very differently for Adam Radwan. Had his father not moved from Egypt in his twenties, the Newcastle winger would have been born in the tailoring business.
“They come from Port Said, two hours from Cairo, near the Suez Canal,” he says. “When I was younger, we came to visit four or five times a year. I always remember the pet tortoise they kept in the roof … before it escaped!
‘It is clearly a completely different lifestyle there. They have no idea about rugby. My grandfather was a tailor and always made tailor-made suits. My father and my uncle both worked with him. I don’t think I would have been much good at it! ‘
Newcastle winger Adam Radwan was almost born in his family’s tailoring business
Radwan, whose father moved from Egypt, is one of the brightest stars in English rugby
Instead, Radwan was born in a post office in the village of Osmotherley in North Yorkshire.
Dad worked in the post office, but it closed and turned into a cafe.
“He is a very good cook and worked in restaurants for a while, but it was more pub grub than any Egyptian kitchen.”
With a nod to his family’s Northeast culinary roots, he adds, ‘I’d have a chicken parmo in Middlesbrough every time!’
Rather than cutting dust, Radwan has been cutting his teeth over the past few seasons as one of the most exciting wingers in English rugby. He is known to his teammates by his ancestral middle name, Belal.
He faced a number of setbacks as a youngster and admits that he was about to give up
“I started playing rugby in Middlesbrough and played there until I was 16,” he says. ‘I just started because I was staying with a friend and my dad couldn’t pick me up the next morning, so I went to practice.
‘I eventually moved to Billingham, to play a little higher, and was picked up by Newcastle Under 18s, but they released me. At some point I was ready to pack it. ‘
Despite the setbacks, Radwan stood out for his speed and was invited to an academy in Hartlepool. During those teenage years, he studied a BTEC in sports, and also worked as an after-school teaching assistant as part of his education.
‘I was playing a little sevens and I was about to fly to Kenya when Dean Richards called me. He invited me for a chat when I got back and offered me a one-year deal.
‘I drew the same year as Toby Flood, who I grew up with when I watched England. My uncle was a physio for West Hartlepool so he loves rugby and drove us to Twickenham to watch England a few times. I was there when they beat the All Blacks. I still think it’s pretty unreal playing with guys like Toby, to be honest. ‘
But Radwan’s speed made him stand out and is now one of the main attractions for Newcastle
Today, Radwan is one of the top attractions in Kingston Park. His raw speed makes him a box office attacker in the broad channels and he is fast becoming a local favorite.
‘My father was pretty fast, so I have good genes. Growing up I loved watching Bryan Habana because it was fast. Lesley Vainikolo too. When I came to Newcastle, Jonny May was always someone I really wanted to play. Fast, offensive rugby.
‘You always want to compare your speed with that of other players, but it is difficult to really know what speeds they are clocking. I never timed myself more than 100 meters, but we look at the GPS data of races. My top speed is 10.6 meters per second, but the strength and fitness of the guys made me aim to get that to 11.
He’s on the radar of English scouts and even had rugby league chefs watching him
Radwan admits his main goal is to play for England, but has focused on his club form for now
‘When I came to Newcastle my running technique was terrible. I had good leg speed, but it was not efficient. All my gym work is geared towards strength and speed. ‘
During his first season, a Leeds Rhinos employee delivered a handwritten note to Radwan’s grandparents’ home asking if he would be interested in switching to rugby league. England’s scouts have also discussed his prowess and the 23-year-old could hit the international scene this summer.
“It is clear that the big goal is to play for England,” he says. ‘It’s in the back of your mind, but I don’t want to get caught up in that thinking. If I play well for Newcastle every week, hopefully something will come out. ‘