Wallabies legend and Invincible, David Campese answers the tough questions put to him by Steph Batt last Friday before the Lions first test match against the Wallabies.
Nicknames: Campo, Too Easy.
DOB: 21 October 1962
Representative: Wallabies – 101 caps, 315 points (64 tries, 8 con, 7 pen, 2 drop); Waratahs – 56 caps, 114 points (24 tries, 2 drop goals)
Australian Sevens – Including Captain of the 1998 Commonwealth games Bronze Medal winning team
Clubs – Queanbeyan Whites, ACT; Randwick, Sydney; Petrarca Padova, Padua, Italy; Amatori Rugby Milano, Milan, Italy
How did you get into rugby?
That’s a long one. I actually played Rugby League from 8 to 16 in Queanbeyan because in those days, in the 70’s, Rugby League was the country sport. Represented ACT from 8 -16. Played Aussie Rules for a couple of years. Lived 100 metres from a golf course so played golf as well and won golf championship at age 15. Played a bit of rugby at school but in 1979 when I left school and went to work one day I went over to watch the local 4th grade side, the Queanbeyan Whites, I played and started the week after.
Is there anyone who has been, or was a particular influence on your career?
That’s hard. Back in those days Michael O’Connor (13 Wallaby caps, 18 Kangaroo caps) came from Canberra. And my school teachers at school, Wayne Southwood, played for a team in Easts and Barry O’Connell was the coach of Easts in Canberra. They brought it [rugby] to the government school that I was at. So I was playing at school & then watching the test matches. I watched the test matches when Mark Ella and those guys played.
What do you regard as your greatest achievement or highlight?
I just think the opportunity of playing; I was very fortunate. My Dad’s Italian and had no idea about sport. I came from Queanbeyan, a town of 21,000 people and played for Australia. I was very fortunate that I didn’t choose rugby, it chose me. And the places I have been and the people I have met has been amazing.
How does it feel to be named as one of Australia’s first four Rugby Invincibles?
I think it is fantastic. But for me, I live overseas now, I didn’t really know what was happening. Obviously there is a lot of people complaining because all four of us came from the same club. I just say look, don’t have a go at me, because I didn’t choose me, other people did. You could understand if the players pick themselves, but we had nothing to do with it. It is a great honour.
Why are you living in South Africa?
I can’t get a job in Australia. I coach over there, I help out the IRB, travel around world coaching. Here I can’t coach.
Do you have any regrets or disappointments?
No. Never. Very happy with what has happened and what I have done.
Are there any player(s), past or present, that you wish you had the opportunity to play with?
No. I think if you look at rugby, now it is very very very structured. I think that the 80’s was the best era to play in rugby because it wasn’t really a money era, we did it because we loved it. And I think that is the difference. When you play sport for enjoyment you try. When you play for money it is a job.
Who would you say was your toughest opponent?
Over the years, Serge Blanco [Fullback/Wing, 93 caps for France], Jean-Baptiste Lafond [Wing, 36 caps for France], John Kirwin [Wing, 63 caps for All Blacks], Jonah Lomu [Wing, 63 caps for All Blacks]…. There is a lot of players.
What do you think the current standard of Super Rugby?
I’ll get in trouble if I say what I really think.
Don’t worry I get in trouble all the time.
I think that unfortunately it is a money era. It is more about money and not about the game. The rugby has got no chance. We have got to give the players the power. Unfortunately the coaches rule the game, they tell the players how to play the game and it is all structured. It is too structured.
So the Australian Number 10? I’m going to get you right in trouble.
I just think that Quade Cooper is a great player. The problem is if you have got a player like that, the way he plays, you need players around him who understand him. You can’t go and play a guy like Pat McCabe or Faingaa who can’t pass the ball or who can’t read a game. It doesn’t work. That is why he struggles. Again we have a Kiwi coach who should not be there, but that is my opinion.
I don’t think that you are alone there.
But no one else is game enough to say it.
So do you think that there is a problem with the depth in Australian Rugby, or is just not managed properly?
I think that the problem in Australian rugby is that we have five Super Rugby teams that we can’t sustain. There are players that are playing that I coached at University 2-3 years ago and I am amazed that they play at this level because they are not good enough. But that’s what happened. Because we haven’t got the depth we need to throw these guys in but they are just not capable. They are good players but….
Do you think that the 5th team has brought out any players?
No. Because if you look at the 5th team, all the players are from the other 4 teams. When the Force started all the Queensland players went to the Force. That is how it started. And the Brumbies started with all the rejects from New South Wales. If you look at the players, normally all of them have come from Sydney. So how has that helped?
I believe that when you were playing in Canberra you worked at a Timber Mill. I have it on good authority that Mondays weren’t your best day & a company touch game may have got a little out of hand. Truth or rumour?
Aaaahhhhhh, I was alright. Monday was always a good day. I used to operate a machine so it had to be a good day. The touch, I can’t remember. Honestly. That was 79, 80, 81.
Seriously, do you think that the current players would benefit from having to do some sort of work outside of rugby?
Yeah, definitely. You need an interest. If you have got an interest, you go to training you are happy to be there. If you are there 24 hours a day it doesn’t work.
What have you been doing since you have retired?
Mainly coaching. In South Africa. I have an academy in Hong Kong and help out in Singapore. I have just been in Wales for 3 weeks doing some speaking and some coaching. Where ever I go, I coach. For the last month I have been overseas. I was only in South Africa for a week.
I have to ask…… What do you think is the role of women in rugby?
I think that there is a place for that. I have been known for talking about a certain journalist in Brisbane. And the thing is, I am not going to change my point of view because I have been reading the articles and I still think they’re s*^&. But that is my point of view. Other people say worse things in the world but because it was me I was on the front page.
Prediction for the Lions tour?
If it keeps on raining the Lions have a great chance for tomorrow night (Saturday night’s first test against the Wallabies). I don’t understand why Deans has had them in camp for 20 days. Players are out of position.
Do you think the they should have been released for the provincial games?
Yes. You have got to respect the Lions. The Lions have come out here, they are test players, they play week-in week-out. Why? You are actually making the Lions tours not as valued as they should be. They are 4 countries in one. They are here, they are test players, they are playing. You support the Reds, you go week-in week-out, you want the Reds to bet the Lions. You don’t want to go there knowing that it’s your second team and they are going to lose. I don’t think it is fair. We did it in ’89, we played and it is good to play and it is a great opportunity to beat them.
So who is going to win the series?
If the Lions don’t win the first one then I think Australia is going to win.
(Let’s hope the implication there doesn’t come true.)