David Campese

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David Campese (born 21 October 1962) is a former Australian rugby union player.

The Manawatu match unveiled the extraordinary talent of David Campese, the Queanbeyan teenager who had been plucked out of the Australian under-21 team for the tour. Campese, who played fullback for the ACT, was chosen for the tour as a winger. An electrifying runner, he showed promise of greater things to come when he left the defence lurching into space to score a brilliant, solo try. Campese's goose-step, or the 'Struggletown shuffle' as it is known in Queanbeyan, delighted the crowd and confused the defence. The young saw-miller possessed a degree of self-assurance to match his ability and rocketed into Test calculations. Campese's innate flair was reminiscent of the Ellas and he idolised the trio. He was a constant companion of either Mark, Glen or Gary for the entire tour.

- Bret Harris, 'Captain', Ella, Ella, Ella (1984), 99.

Lightning flashes when David Campese gets the ball. In a one-on-one situation, Canberra's zig-zag man can be unstoppable as he scythes past the first couple of tackles. He has explosive acceleration and a lightning change of direction and he's the master of the goosestep. You get the impression that if Campese was locked in a trunk under water like the famous escapologist Houdini, he'd sidestep his way out. Alan Jones says: 'Campese is the Bradman of rugby.'

- Terry Smith, 'The Troops', Path to Victory (1987), 134.

He is one of those players who raise onlookers to a fever pitch of anticipation whenever the ball comes his way - you know in your blood that something is on, and so do the defenders!

Besides his sheer pace - he always seems to be moving flat out - he has great skills, the most exciting of which is his celebrated 'goose-step', which he uses to leave the best tacklers clutching at thin air. It is not a side-step as practiced by David Duckham or Gerald Davies, but rather a change of pace in which he closes one foot up to the other and steps off on the same foot. It has the effect of causing a defender to pause fractionally - and fatally. Campese showed in Britain, where he was a heavy scorer, that he could get past the cover in more orthodox ways, too. Although no more than five feet ten inches in height, he turns the scales at twelve stones, so a tackler really needs to get a grip on him. This is made all the harder by his sturdy sprinter's thighs and bulky hips, all of which give him a range of options to beat an opponent.

- Gareth Edwards, 'David Campese', 100 Great Rugby Players (1987), 21-2.

David Campese is the most exciting example of these threequarters; he is the epitome of the modern player. The magician of Australian rugby has shown us a thousand turns, all as beautiful as one another. He never lacks spirit or commitment in a game, and manages to inspire team-mates and opponents alike with his enthusiasm.

He will leave his mark on world rugby and is an example to young players everywhere. I am proud to have played against him and have only one regret - that we have not had the opportunity to share our enjoyment of the game wearing the same jersey.

Mon cher David, thank you for your love of the game, and above all for the respect your name evokes in rugby in France and around the world.

Au revoir mon ami!

- Serge Blanco, 'Foreword: From Serge Blanco Captain of France', On a Wing and a Prayer, 9.

David Campese, Australia’s most capped Test player, proved in the 1991 World Cup that he is the Pelé of international rugby. Nobody else in the game makes the Rugby world hold its collective breath as he does every time he touches the ball.

In Australia Campese has critics who believes that his extravagances are excessive, but in the Northern Hemisphere he is something of a god. At home, Campese can be inhibited, self-conscious and quickly rattled by his opponents. But in Great Britain, where he is idolized, the most exciting winger in world Rugby plays at a level well above anyone else on the international scene. The swagger re-emerges and no-one can touch him. Campese was the revelation of the 1991 World Cup. He won all the major awards, scored the most exciting tries, was named ‘player of the tournament’ and ensured that Australia made the World Cup final. On that score, Australian captain Nick Farr-Jones unequivocally stated that the Wallabies would not have won the World Cup without Campese. Irish Test great Tony Ward went even further and echoed the thoughts of many when he described Campese as ‘perhaps the greatest player of all time’.

Greg Growden, ‘David Campese’, The Wallabies' World Cup (1991), 56.

I have tried to analyse him in all of his achievements, and I have come to the conclusion that his greatest single asset is courage. Campese has always been willing to take a chance to achieve the best. He has never wanted to be restricted by a fear of failure, and by and large he has not been restricted. I have seen him hesitate, and I suppose this could be attributed to a fear of failure, but this has happened only rarely. His instinct is always to do things which are above the ordinary. The safe option may be to kick the ball thirty metres and put it into touch. Campese knows that if he hits it just right he can kick a long ball which will go fifty metres and roll another twenty and perhaps put the opposition under pressure. The second option is invariably the one he will take.

Most players of flair, after they have been criticised many times for the mistakes they make, tend to withdraw into their shell as they get older. The audacity of youth tends to get worn down pretty quickly by hard experience. Mercifully, this has not happened with Campese.

Bob Dwyer, 'Campese', The Winning Way (1992), 68, 70.

Campese is blessed with an abundance of self-confidence, and it is not misplaced. Campese's self-confidence is backed by outstanding physical talents, the most important of which is explosiveness. He is a speedy runner without being a sprinter. I certainly do not believe he was ever super-fast over 100 metres. He has tremendous power, however, and amazing acceleration, which, according to the experts, he owes to the type of muscle fibres he was born with. He has great balance and great kicking skills. In short, he is a heaven-made Rugby player.

Bob Dwyer, 'Campese', The Winning Way (1992), 70.

At one stage in the game Michael was chasing a kick which was fielded by a young fullback whom he had not seen before. As Michael moved in for the tackle, the fullback suddenly accelerated with an unusual high-stepping action and raced across the field. 'I was chasing the ball and he hit me with this goose-step. I eventually caught him, but it was the first time I had ever been put into two minds like that. I thought, "This bloke's got some ability".' The fullback's name was David Campese.

- Michael O'Connor as quoted by Bret Harris, The best of both worlds: The Michael O'Connor story (1992), 56.

It was a good time to reflect. Campo had been our undoubted star. From the very outset of the season he was clearly on a mission. Given the way he prepared himself, it was obvious he wanted to play the best he'd ever played. And he did just that. Once he got to the United Kingdom the media went absolutely berserk over him, which I might add caused some ill-feeling among the team. I just wish the media had better appreciated the team as a whole, especially players like Eales, Horan, Little and Ofahengaue, more than they did. The impression at times was that Campo was the whole Australian team. He undoubtedly was the leading light in the whole tournament, but he would be the first one to agree that it was a team performance, and not one individual, which won Australia the World Cup.

- Simon Poidevin - 'Australia Comes of Age', For Love Not Money (1992), 233.

As the Wallabies were lining up and the cameramen began to swarm, it became obvious that the man whom the media cross hairs were really trained upon was Campese, and the only way any of them were going to make the evening television news or the following morning's newspapers was if they warmed up beside Campese. It began as a trickle, turned into a rivulet and then became a gusher, all of the Wallabies eventually swamping Campese, falling all over him and pushing each other out of the way as they all tried to get in the photo.

- Peter FitzSimons, 'The World Cup', Nick Farr-Jones: The Authorised Biography (1993), 237.

One of the most exciting players in the history of rugby, the speedy, goose-stepping son of an Italian migrant winemaker, Campese has become the world's leading try-scorer and played in more internationals than any Australian. He has played most of his football as a winger, but also excels at fullback. From the time he first played in international rugby in 1982 he has been a menace to opponents wherever and whenever he receives the ball, his acceleration, superb balance and nimble wits giving him a strong chance of making a break. As he has matured he has developed a long clearing kick that repeatedly saves his teams.

Jack Pollard, 'CAMPESE, David Ian ('Campo')', Australian Rugby: The Game and its Players (1994), 85.

Earlier on in the tour, while the Wallabies were based in Toulouse, David Campese had announced plans of a day trip down to Nice, the ritzy French resort on the Mediterranean Coast. It was a popular idea and in no time at all, Campo had four of five willing travel companions. Horan, for the life of him, couldn't understand the attraction. 'What's everybody going down to see Campo's niece for?'

- Tim Horan as quoted by Michael Blucher, 'Side by Side in Green and Gold', Perfect Union: The parallel lives of Wallby centres Tim Horan and Jason Little (1995), 111.

When I look back on David's career, it's hard to believe that he's been around for so long. I remember him and all his hair when he scored his first Test try against New Zealand at Lancaster Park in Christchurch in 1982. I remember when he beat Miguens, the Argentinian fullback in 1983 at the Sydney Cricket Ground using the goose-step to score another try. I recall that try against the Barbarians in 1984 and I especially remember Campo being the first by my side when, against Scotland, I scored my fourth Test try on the tour. I remember him being lampooned by Alan Jones in New Zealand in 1986 when he was wrongly accused of losing the Test match, and being boxed in by seven Barbarian players in 1988 and beating all seven of them. I was co-commentating with Nigel Starmer-Smith in 1989 when Campo threw a pass to nobody, giving the British Lions winger Ieuan Evans a match and series winning try. I remember Campo flicking the ball over his shoulder for Tim Horan to score a try against New Zealand in the semi-final of the 1991 World Cup, the tournament that clearly established him as the best in the world. David was at my side as a close friend to me and my family when I was coaching in Milan and I remember him last year, when the rugby world was starting to have second thoughts on his ability to continue playing at the top.

Mark Ella, 'The Fastest, Most Elusive Winger in the World', David Campese (1996), 33.

It's valid to argue that whole forests have been cut down as writers, commentators and critics across the rugby world have sought to define the almost indefinable qualities of David Campese. I once said he was the Bradman of rugby union and it's not a judgment from which I would ever resile. For the bulk of his rugby career, Campese, ball in hand, or even the anticipation of Campese receiving the football, brought people to their feet.


Alan Jones, 'The Bradman of Rugby Union', David Campese (1996), 33.

In an age where the game and its participants have become so predictable, when it is possible to forecast with some assurance exactly what any given player will do in specific circumstances, it has been both refreshing and a delight to come across someone who was just different, who sometimes didn't know himself what he would do, far less anyone else! Talk about being unorthodox, a law unto himself or whatever, David Campese is an entertainer par excellence because he doesn't conform but provides joyous spells of the unexpected in tilting his lance, sometimes in an audacious and outrageous fashion. He could prove to be the last of a dying breed of adventurers. Of course he knew when a touch of percentage rugby was required. His instinctive feel for what was on saw to that. But he is so gifted with flair and vision as to frequently make a little go a long way. A little space was all he required to display his unusual command of the arts of deception, of swerve, sidestep, feint, pace change and even of hand-off as well as adhesive hands and variations in weight, shape and direction of pass. He and Mike Gibson of Ireland are the most complete footballers I have ever seen. Either could have played in any back division position in an international and still would have made a huge impact.


Bill McLaren, 'Entertainer Par Excellence', David Campese (1996), 50-1.

Once, when I asked Wallaby coach Bob Dwyer how he set about coaching David Campese he replied: 'Bill, I make it a point never to interfere with true genius.' That surely says it all.

Bill McLaren, 'Entertainer Par Excellence', David Campese (1996), 54.

It may come as a surprise that David has a taste for Hawick Bells. They are hard-boiled mint sweets manufactured in my own home town of Hawick. When I gave him one for the very first time his reaction was: 'Will I pass a bloody drug test with one of those inside me?'

Bill McLaren, 'Entertainer Par Excellence', David Campese (1996), 54.

I was amazed at David Campese's ability when I first saw him play as a nineteen-year-old, and I am even more amazed at his ability today. I do not know of anyone in any sport, with the exception of Don Bradman in cricket, who has been at the very pinnacle of the game for as long as Campese. If I had been asked to pick a World XV in 1984, Campese would have been the first player I chose. If I were asked to do the same thing today, in 1995, he is still the first player I would choose. There are two reasons he has been at the top for so long. Firstly, he was born with more natural talent than I have ever seen in one player. And second, he has worked harder at his game than anyone I know, training every day, year after year. These are the two foundations of his success - amazing talent and amazing dedication - and each has been as important as the other.

Mark Ella, 'A Kindred Spirit', Running Rugby (1995), 37.

David Campese's individual brilliance and unpredictable style of play had won numerous games for Australia and thrilled rugby followers all around the world; he could virtually win a match single-handedly by an inspired act of rugby 'magic'.

- Kevin Hitchcock, 'Teamwork', One Step Ahead (2001), 124.

David Campese was probably the most talented footballer Australia has ever provided. His instinctive game and his elusive running constantly amazed spectators and confused the opposition. The interesting thing about Campo, though, was not only did the opposition not know what he was going to do but neither did his own teammates. This proved to be extremely successful in many ways because he would appear out of nowhere to receive the ball and make a break out of something that seemed impossible.

It's always a great asset to have someone who does something out of the square and it is important to encourage this creativity. However, if a team had several Campos I believe it would be a total disaster because the left hand would not know what the right hand was doing.

Rod MacQueen, 'Teamwork', One Step Ahead (2001), 125–6.

Talent does not always stand out at first glance, yet it is surprising how many people were at the Tests against Scotland in 1982 took special note of an extravagantly talented teenager who played for the Australian under-21s in curtain-raisers to both matches. The teenager was, of course, David Campese.

– Philip Derriman, 'The New Brigade', The Rise and Rise of Australian Rugby (2001), 91.

Campo came out of Queanbeyan. The first time I met him he worked in a sawmill, he told us. We came from a nothing-type background as well - you know, we weren't rich or anything like that - so we sort of fitted in. Campo used to watch us on the ABC in those days and loved the way that we played rugby, and I think we just complemented each other. You know, we didn't have big heads and he certainly didn't - oh, probably now he has... He was just another guy trying to do his best. So we just fitted in really easily and related pretty easily.

Glen Ella, 'The New Brigade', The Rise and Rise of Australian Rugby (2001), 92.

By now New Zealanders had seen enough of Campese to know that a rare talent was opposing them. Stu Wilson: 'Well, David Campese hit New Zealand, his first tour over here. We heard about this brash, upstart little ***** from Sydney - you know, he was running around, goose-stepping, and saying he'd do this and do that.

'We saw him during the provincial games. He was good - without a doubt the most exciting talent we'd seen for years - and I'm saying, "He's on my wing, I have to mark him." So I said to the big gorillas, "Look boys, I catch him, we get him in the ruck, you do it to him: we'll give him the good, old-fashioned New Zealand welcome, all right? I want size-fifteen boots right over the top of him." They said, "Can you catch him?" I said, "I'll try." Well, for three Tests I tried but couldn't catch him. We had the boys sharpening their sprigs. They said, "Stuey, this time we'll get him." I even brought Bernie Fraser over from the other wing and gave him 10 minutes. I said, "Bernie, you come and have a crack at him. I can't catch him - he's too quick." He had the goose-step, he had the chip and chase, he had the typical cockiness of all Australian backs. But we just couldn't get him - he was that good. He knew that we were after him, and he knew that if he'd got into Doctor Death House, as we used to call the rucks, then Doctor Death would deliver. So he would always scoot around. When he got into the heavy weather, he'd make sure that he'd scramble out of the rucks before out boys would get to him. A good player, damn him. He made life hell for me for three Tests.

Stu Wilson, 'The New Brigade', The Rise and Rise of Australian Rugby (2001), 93.

Campo came onto the scene as a very young player, and unknown player in that series, and I think gave Stu Wilson nightmares. I think Stuey got a bit of a towelling by Campo during that series. You know, he had one or two innovations: the old stutter step was something which nobody had really seen before. These days, with video analysis, it's quite hard for players to have anything that's out of the ordinary or anything new, because when something is done once or twice, it's analysed to death after that. But I think Campo with his style and his speed and his flair was certainly a bit of an individual. He took us by surprise. Stu got a bit of stick for that because he was probably our star winger in that period. He'd been with the All Blacks from 1976, 1977, right through and was an outstanding winger. Stuey never got near Campo. I mean, Campo was exceptional.

Graham Mourie, 'The New Brigade', The Rise and Rise of Australian Rugby (2001), 93.

The coach has few higher missions than that of assisting athletes to perform instinctively. David Campese would ask me after every game how I thought he had gone. It's quite a question from a man who played a record number of Tests and set try-scoring records throughout an international career spanning fourteen years. On one occasion, after a match involving the Australian Sevens I told him that I thought he had gone okay. He wasn't happy with that reply and pressed me further.

'How do you really think I played?' he prodded.

'I thought you played well.'

'Anything in particular you noticed?'

'Well, seeing that you're asking... Do you remember towards the end of the game when you went through that gap and stepped to the left?'

'Yes, you're going to say I should have stepped right, aren't you?'

'Well, all of our support was on the right, facing almost no defence.'

I've never forgotten his reply.

'Yes,' he said. 'I thought about that after it happened, but I just go where my feet go.'

That's exactly it. You've got to let yourself go where your feet go. Practice diligently, play instinctively. In so many ways since then, I've encouraged players to go where their feet go. The great rugby league coach Jack Gibson put it another way when he was defending a decision a player had made: 'He didn't have time to have a committee meeting.'

Bob Dwyer, Full Time: A Coach’s Memoir (2004), 152.

I STRONGLY URGE COACHES to watch and re-watch the game’s great performances. If a coach hasn’t seen standards of greatness how can he truly envisage how the game might be played? The deeds of players like Michael Jones, Michael O’Connor, Serge Blanco, David Campese, and the Ella brothers provide a list of clues for what is possible…

I recommend young wingers take a look at Campese’s match videos to see how much work the great man did as both winger and fullback, working across the field from touchline to touchline. It’s fine to have a dazzling sidestep or a magical swerve, but they are only the topping on the desert. The real substance is in the body of work that enables a player to recognise and place himself in a position of possibility. That was how Campo created opportunities. I’m convinced that exposure to that sort of excellence is an absolute necessity in the making of a great coach.

Bob Dwyer, Full Time: A Coach’s Memoir (2004), 154–5.

MY GREATEST RUGBY LESSON was the abovementioned ‘I go where my feet go’ tutorial delivered by David Campese, a brilliant player whose reputation will remain great for as long as the game is played. The Campo legend is a constant reminder that all players are individuals, but some are more individual than others. My first real contact with David came when a country kid from Queanbeyan was included on that ’82 tour of New Zealand. He was one of the bunch of young blokes given a chance to show their wares. Both on and off the park it was immediately evident he was different without trying to be different. We noticed early on that he said the first thing that came into his head. I don’t think the years have changed him in that regard. He saw things none of us could see and missed others that were patently obvious to everybody else. A classic example is when after his first Test debut David was asked whether he had been nervous about marking the great New Zealand winger Stu Wilson. ‘Who’s Stu Wilson?’ asked Campo. He wasn’t joking.

Bob Dwyer, Full Time: A Coach’s Memoir (2004), 157–8.

In picking players, matches and subjects for this look at rugby's heroes and entertainers, it has been the spectacular aspect of rugby football that first and foremost influenced my choice. I have always been one who reacted to adventurous players, the Campeses of this world who love to tilt their lance and run out from defence.

... Having had to slog through commentary after commentary with that kind of defensive rugby football, it has just been a sheer delight to have come across people like David Campese, and Andy Irvine, and Jason Robinson - mind you, I would have hated to mark Jason Robinson, you would need a double-barrelled shotgun to do that. But I love the fact that he takes people on, he's courageous and trusts his instincts and capabilities.

- Bill McLaren, Rugby's Greatest Heroes and Entertainers (2003), 1.

I have already mentioned the Hawick balls I used to take around with me and feed to some players, notably Gareth Edwards and Gerald Davies. One day at a practice session I gave Campese one and told him, 'That'll put a yard on your speed.'

'I don't need a yard on my bloody speed,' he answered, but he took the sweet all the same and held it up to the light. 'Would I pass a bloody drug test with this inside me?' he asked. Another day he left an Australian training session, and came over to me and said, 'Hey, Bill, you got any of them bloody sweets?' And Dwyer was standing there flaming, 'What the hell's he doing over there?' But Campese fancied those Hawick balls, and he was going to have one, whatever Dwyer thought.

- Bill McLaren, Rugby's Greatest Heroes and Entertainers (2003), 154.

I THINK that the biggest impression ever made by a touring side in the UK was that made by the Wallabies in 1984. It might be a bit too much to say that they revolutionised international rugby, but certainly they produced a form of back play that was so challenging and so exciting that people were really taken aback by the sheer quality of it... They did so with good solid forward play, but also with a new concept of back play in which they introduced a whole series of loop moves, dummy moves, changes of pace, switches and so on, that really amounted to virtually a new concept altogether. They had the ideal people to do it, when you think of Mark Ella and Roger Gould, the great big full-back at six foot two and fifteen stone; and of course the inimitable David Campese, who will always be my number one player for excitement and thrill, and making you sit up and take notice... ...but it was the back play that really opened our eyes: Mark Ella, Michael Lynagh, Nick Farr-Jones, Gould - and Campese, who was a law unto himself. I once said to Bob Dwyer, who coached the Australians, 'How do you coach Campese, who is so very much an individualist?' And he answered, 'Well, Bill, I made it a point never the interfere with bloody genius.' And that was Campese. He was a thrill to watch, and I enjoyed doing commentary when Campese was playing more than any other time because you never knew what he would be up to next. It was the uncertainty, and the challenge, and the cheek of the fellow that helped to carry the commentary along. The touring Wallabies of 1984 really did bring a new concept of dazzling interplay in midfield that simply took the breath away. When they made it to Murrayfield with the prospect of a remarkable Grand Slam over the home countries, they took the place by storm. And it seemed in every sense appropriate that the score that clinched their Slam was out of the top drawer and scored by the remarkable David Ian Campese. ... Mark Ella, the Wallabies' stand-off, was a class act of course. He didn't seem to run on the ground, he seemed to run above it. And he had wonderful gifts of deception and very high skill levels. Ella not only had great pace, there was also his change of pace - he seemed to be going along comfortably in their gear and then, suddenly, woosh, he was gone. And he didn't seem to have done anything different! He kicked well too. Mark Ella and David Campese between them contributed highly to that very successful side. ... It was at the Randwick club in Sydney that this way of playing was devised... Those Australian backs were putting into operation the Randwick style, where they'd been playing that kind of stuff for a while. And what a style it was! It certainly left a lot of our midfield players with their mouths open. 'Did you see that?' Or rather, 'Did you not see that?' That was the kind of thing going through our players' minds. But it was really riveting to watch. And the whole thing was done at such pace. Flipping the ball over your shoulder in one thing, but to do it when you're flat out, and send a colleague the other way with the ball, that was wonderful to behold. Unless you were on the receiving end! And with people like Ella and Campese they were extremely difficult to beat, especially with Gould coming in from the back, picking his time and place so brilliantly, coming in as a big man with pace, and therefore capable of breaking any but the best tackle. Mark Ella scored in each game of that Grand Slam: a try against England, a try and two drop goals against Ireland, a try for Wales, and a try against Scotland. That's an amazing record for a stand-off half. It just shows the quality of the fellow, not only in the way he launched other people, but in the way that, having done so, he suddenly appeared somewhere else like a tame genie, and at pace. He seemed to have such a lovely light footwork. Ella was very special. And of course with Campese you had a player who could open up any side with his sheer impertinence - and class. Michael Lynagh was a gifted player too. In 1988 was his great year over here, but he made a terrific impression in 1984 as well, when he was brought in as a replacement and suddenly galvanised things. Lynagh was a great goal kicker too. He scored ninety-eight points in that Australian tour of 1984, and that's quite a haul, and gives some impresion of his capabilities. To have Ella at stand-off and Lynagh at inside-centre! It was a tremendous pairing, especially with Campese floating about as well. ... The knowledge of each other's play and style, built partly on the Randwick experience, was devastating. We found great trouble in coping with it. It would be interesting to see how they would get on today against the cluttered midfields and the very well organised defences of these days. I just wish the Ellas and Lynaghs and Campeses and Farr-Joneses could play now, just to see how they would fare.}}

- Bill McLaren, Rugby's Greatest Heroes and Entertainers (2003), 157-60.

In 1988 the Australians came over again, captained by Nick Farr-Jones, and toured England and Scotland, but not Ireland, Wales or France. That Wallabies side was coached by Bob Dwyer with Bob Templeton, two great characters, but curiously enough they lost three of their first four matches...

But then Campese and the rest really got into gear. Campese scored two tries in that win by 32-13, just brilliant following up and instinct about where to be. And Lynagh kicked five goals. That 1988 tour was the one in which Michael Lynagh dominated, scoring sixty-one points, and really establishing himself as a class stand-off. But it was Campese who scored the tries, including one in the 28-19 defeat by England at Twickenham as well as those two against Scotland at Murrayfield. But the real high point of that great tour came at the end with the Australians beating the Barbarians 40-22 at Cardiff. That was when Campese scored an absolutely magical try, changing pace and coming off each foot, dummying and dithering and doing everything that was possible and a lot of things that weren't! What a try it was. He beat almost the entire Barbarians side to score it. And he got a standing ovation, the like of which I've never experienced anywhere before. A standing ovation for a visiting player is a rare thing at Cardiff, and it went on and on, very emotional! In the commentary box you felt a great sweep of admiration coming up. The crowd didn't sing, they just cheered and clapped, cheered and clapped, and it went on for ages.

- Bill McLaren, Rugby's Greatest Heroes and Entertainers (2003), 163-4.

I love to see rugby football where there's a sense of adventure, and where the players take risks. David Campese was very much one of those, as well as being a player with all the skills, and all the gifts of deception. But he also had a cheeky touch to him, he liked to tilt his lance at people, and to leave big forwards floundering in their wake. He had that kind of cheeky, challenging touch that I thoroughly enjoyed. As a commentator you're always aware of the quality of play on the field. Your commentary really depends for its interest on what's happening out there. Well, whenever Campese was playing you never had any doubt, your commentary would always be lifted by what he was doing on the field, because he was an artist, and a cheeky artist into the bargain.

Look at all the wonderful tries he has scored. Take the try for the Wallabies against the Barbarians at Cardiff in their 1988 tour, in which he ran more than forty metres, and in that spell left three or four Barbarians literally sitting on their backsides. The whole ground rose to their feet to acknowledge brilliance, sheer genius. I was doing the commentary that day, and it almost took my breath away to see how the whole ground rose that day. It was the cheeky touch to him that I particularly liked, the yoicks! and tally ho! touch to some of his play. Of course it occasionally broke down. He gave away a crucial try to the British Lions in the third test at Sydney in 1989. But that's Campese, where the good far outweighs the bad, if bad it can be called. For me, as a commentator, it was a delight when Campese was playing because of the sudden adventurousness that would spark a game into life. He had that ability, that 'Come and watch me' mood that I loved. He was always calling for the ball, shouting 'Mine' and 'I'm here!' And as it turned out this was a wonderful type of decoy, because he often distracted people who thought he was going to get the ball. It tended to upset the opposition. Some people (but not me) thought he was too cocksure. But his colleagues knew that had a gem there. They just reacted with, 'Well, that's Campese.' As Bob Dwyer said, you don't interfere with genius. No doubt he occasionally got a ticking-off from Michael Lynagh or Nick Farr-Jones when he attempted something quite outrageous. Farr-Jones was Australian captain during part of David Campese's reign, and I think he had a calming influence. And Campese also played with Mark Ella, another good influence who could help keep things in perspective. But anybody who tried to drill Campese was a fool. He was a terribly difficult fellow to get the measure of because nobody knew what he was going to do. He didn't know! I think it was Michael Lynagh who once said, 'One of the great joys of Campese's play is that he never knows what he's going to do next, so neither does the opposition!' And he had all those gifts, including a wonderful change of pace: one minute he'd be doddling along, and then he was gone! I don't think anyone did that better than Campese. There was a try against Scotland at Murrayfield in 1984 that was unbelievable. He handled away on the right touchline just outside the Australian 22, and he got all the way across the field to take a pass for a score in the left-hand corner. You would have thought at least five guys would have got him, but they never looked like it. His great art lay in the challenge, the unexpected aspect of his play, the sudden surges of brilliance out of nothing. He had a little hitch kick in his play which often checked defenders. I don't think he knew himself how he did it, but it was very, very effective. He'd just be running along when suddenly there was a kind of one-and-a-half, two-and-a-half step. The local Queanbeyan newspaper in New South Wales, where he comes from, called it 'Campese's struggledown shuffle'. For me Campese was the great entertainer, he could light up a match. There was no way you could tie him down. His record of 101 caps and 315 points speaks for its itself. He scored sixty-four tries, sixty-four international tries in 101 games - a world record. Even for a guy who played in so many matches that's extraordinary. But he also also a cheeky chappie who would speak his mind. And although a number of people resented the remarks he made, I think the majority appreciated Campese because he said what he thought, whether or not it ruffled a few feathers. When he criticised the English style of rugby football, saying that it was very limited, and because it was so dependent on forward play threatened to kill the game of rugby union, he upset quite a few people. But I may say that his remarks went down very well with the Celtic countries, especially Scotland and Ireland! For all the criticism of him, people really thought he was a star. Certainly I did. Maybe it was the Italian side of him that gave him sparkle. But it was also the type of game that the Australians played. They were probably the most attractive of international sides, certainly since the war. The Australians have always had that desire to entertain, whereas many other teams just have a desire to win. Campese loved to win as well, of course, but I don't think he'd want to shoot himself if he didn't. Campese must be the only rugby players in the world who has had a dish named after him. In Quenbeyan a local restaurateur was so thrilled by Campese's play that he devised a special steak dish which he called filet Campese. The people of Queanbeyan, they thought he was God! But I found him a very modest fellow, for all his bluster and challenge. Once I ran into him at the Hong Kong Sevens, in the foyer of a hotel. I began telling him how much, as a commentator, I depended on people like him, how thrilled I had been at his performance in the Sevens. And he kept looking at the ground and shuffling his feet, as if it embarrassed him to have all this praise heaped on him. And that surprised me, because until that time I had thought that he might be a bit pleased with himself - but he was the exact opposite. Here was a guy who didn't mind telling people who they could go, and how 'bloody English players can't play bloody rugby', and here he was being embarrassed because I had praised him. One year Campese's club was invited to the Melrose Sevens, the prestigious tournament where seven-a-side rugby started, way back in 1883. Melrose have always been regarded as the great Sevens exponents, and on the day of the match the Borders folk were rubbing their hands because it was a filty day, raining stair-rods, solid water. 'Wait till we get Campese in this mud bath,' they said. But he made a complete mug of them. His team of Randwick won, and he scored a try against Melrose in which he slithered, kicked ahead, slithered again, kicked it through, and scored. 'I wouldn't have scored that bloody try,' he said, 'if it hadn't been so sticky!' He was the star of the whole tournament in conditions that were completely against his style of play. But he mastered it. That was Campese.

- Bill McLaren, Rugby's Greatest Heroes and Entertainers (2003), 184-7.

And then of course on the left wing there was Campese, playing his sixty-fourth international in that World Cup final in 1991, having first played in 1982 against the All Blacks. He was just a star, and if I had to be asked who was my favourite player, purely from a commentator's point of view, I would pick Campese, simply from the surprise elements in his play - you never knew what he would do next, and I don't think he did, but it was riveting and enthralling, and a delight to watch.

- Bill McLaren, Rugby's Greatest Heroes and Entertainers (2003), 209.

In 2001 I was asked by The Times to select my all-time World XV. It went on over four months, and in the end I had made fifteen firm friends and at least 500 enemies, a lot of them in Wales!

... There were some guys whose selection was never in doubt. In most cases you would try to balance one person's merits against another's, but on the right wing it could only have been Gerald Davies, at centre, Mike Gibson, on the left wing, David Campese, and at scrum-half, Gareth Edwards. They are truly great individuals.

- Bill McLaren, Rugby's Greatest Heroes and Entertainers (2003), 257.

My first choice has to be David Campese, who is probably my favourite player of all time. He is the greatest entertainer the world game has seen. He is the Bradman of rugby union. His trademark was his amazing hitch kick. I loved what he did. For a commentator he was always a delight because he would invariably lift a game, and you always knew he would produce the unexpected. He was a law unto himself. No doubt he drove some coaches crazy. But he had that touch on genius, a sense of adventure allied to high skill levels. I remember one game when he was haring down the right wing, seemed to be trapped, but instinctively passed the ball over his head, sensing Tim Horan was inside. The pass was perfect and a try scored.

Bill McLaren, Rugby's Greatest Heroes and Entertainers (2003), 262.

Instead Australia won the Cup for the first time, and in David Campese they had not only the player of the tournament but my own particular favourite from all my years of watching the game. David could revive a match that was faltering. I so admired that willingness to tilt his lance, to have a go, not to be tied down, but to play as he felt was right. When I saw him direct the ball to the perfect spot to create a crucial try for Tim Horan against New Zealand in the semi-final in Dublin, I could hardly believe my eyes. Better still, he also scored himself, suddenly popping up in the fly-half position and taking the ball from a ruck before cutting a clever angle on the outside break to race into the corner beyond the grasp of the New Zealand defenders. For me, ‘Campo’ was the greatest entertainer of the lot and yet, when he was running, he didn’t give the impression of lightning speed. It was his change of pace that was so devastating. As a commentator, I would rather cover Campese with the ball in his hands than any other player I have seen. His ability to light up the scene made it a sheer delight to report on him.

Bill McLaren, ‘The World Cup’, My Autobiography (2004), 57-8.

There have been so many occasions when the sparkling accomplishments of the likes of David Campese of Australia, Andy Irvine of Scotland or Phil Bennett or Gerald Davies of Wales have lit up an entire match, producing the special moments, the things that stand out in the memory. Those swashbucklers achieved thrilling feats because they were bold and daring and prepared to take risks. We are perhaps more in need today than ever before of players like them. I loved commentating when they were on the field. Whenever Campese got the ball, he seemed to explode out of nowhere; Bennett, too, came off either foot in the blink of an eye. When rugby is played in that style, with the focus on attack by talented performers, there is no better game in the world for inspiring and delighting untold millions of people. Now, that cannot be a bad thing to say about a simple ball game, can it?

Bill McLaren, ‘International Rugby’, My Autobiography (2004), 277-8.

I remember once asking Bob Dwyer, the first man to coach Australia to a World Cup triumph, how he ever managed to coach David Campese. ‘Bill, I make it a point never to interfere with bloody genius,’ was his reply. I loved that. To me it said everything, not only about the sheer unpredictability and wizardry of Campese, but about the genius of the coach, too. A lesser man than Dwyer might have tried to rein in ‘Campo’, to provide more structure to his game, to make him play more conventionally. And if the player didn’t or wouldn’t comply, he might have just left him on the sidelines and never harnessed his brilliance for the good of the side. A similar fate has certainly befallen some outstanding talent in the past. Dwyer, thank goodness, had vision. I am sure Campo frequently drove him up the wall, but he never lost sight of the player’s dazzling if unorthodox qualities and shrewdly fitted them into his team’s approach. It was a mark of Dwyer’s coaching skills that he did so, and we should all be grateful to him, because Campo thrilled the world with his genius. He played it off the top of his head, that was what made him so entertaining. His decisions were by no means always correct but he was always worth watching, because when he got the ball, something startling was bound to happen, whether it was a hitch kick, or a crossfield run, or whatever.

Bill McLaren, ‘International Rugby’, My Autobiography (2004), 279-80.

As my career moved into this different orbit I suddenly found myself playing with the big boys - the likes of Phil Kearns, Tony Daly, Tim Gavin, Warrick Waugh, Campo in bits and pieces - blokes I had watched winning the World Cup only a couple of years before when I was a teenager sitting in the lounge room at home and wondering how the hell Campese had passed the ball to Tim Horan.

Matthew Burke, 'Lucky Sevens', Matthew Burke: A rugby life (2005), 47.

When I first came into contact with him at club level in 1991/92 he was an amazing footballer; and when I first played with him in the Waratahs team of 1993 I became aware that he was a player who could do truly freakish things on a football field. He could do terrible things, too, although without doubt the good outweighed the bad. Oh, yes. Campo could play.

Matthew Burke, 'Anatomy of a Try', Matthew Burke: A rugby life (2005), 134.

Nevertheless, his fame surpassed the normal boundaries of sport - Australian rower Nick Green, a Victorian, summed up the Oarsome Foursome's victory in the Barcelona Olympics, like this: 'So easy. Campese.' Campese was so good because he gave the illusion of easy grace in beating opponents and scoring tries, but that grace came only after years of dedication and practice. He was one of a kind and it is unlikely that we will ever see his like again.

– Peter Meares & Max Howell, 'David Campese', Wallaby Legends (2005), 21.

'After the Scottish Test in Sydney all the talk was about this young fullback from Queanbeyan, who had played for the Australian under-21s against New Zealand in the curtain-raiser,' Mark said. 'They said he was an unbelievable player. I didn't know who they were talking about because I was with the Wallabies and I didn't see the game. I met him for the first time when the Wallabies assembled. Campo was a freak. One of those players who only comes around every now and then. Exceptional speed, footwork, kicking... he was just a great player. Loved to attack. In the circumstances we needed people who wanted to have a go and Campo was certainly one of those. We played his style of football. Attack was our first instinct and it certainly was David's. He was like the fourth Ella. Although what we could do collectively he could do by himself. After two or three games the tactics were simple. Get it out to Campo and just trail him.'

Mark Ella, Ella: The Definitive Biography (2007), p 181-2.

As if to deliver a further lesson in why the English don't win much, we were jointly given the BBC Team of the Year award in the end-of-year Sports Personality of the Year programme. The Great Britain 4x400 men's relay team had won gold at that year's world championships and should have won the award outright. I was mortified at having to be on the same platform as them and I could not look them in the eye. To compound this asinine decision, and with stunning insensitivity, somebody at the BBC decided it would be a great idea for our award to be presented by David Campese. I did not agree with the award or the presenter. Before the show, someone from the BBC came over and asked if I would mind being interviewed. I told him that I would be interviewed, but I would say exactly what I thought. When asked what that was, I told him that I did not agree with the award, as it reinforced the notion that losing should be celebrated. Further, that I could not believe the stupidity of inviting Campese to present the award. 'Don't you realise,' I continued, 'he will go home, laughing all the way and then tell Australia that we are such a pathetic country that our Team of the Year was the one they had beaten?' They interviewed Mickey Skinner instead.

Brian Moore, "'We Lost'. What Else is there to say?" Beware the Dog: Rugby's Hard Man Reveals All (2010), 207-8.

As a boy in Tonga, we could not get television but had a video that worked and we would get videos of the Wallabies. David Campese was the one we always loved to watch. Then suddenly I was playing with them. I roomed with Campese once. He always did his own thing. He was a character and a good guy.[1]

Willie Ofahengaue, 'Big O far from the end of the line', The Sunday Mail (Qld) (October 8, 2011).

Campo and I played against each other at under-21 level in 1981 but he made his debut ahead of me the following year. He was ahead of his time; he had the whole box of tricks, which included a big boot - rare for a wing back then but something that could be used to take the pressure of Michael when it was required. And, of course, he was fast. One man can never win a match on his own but he came as close to that as is possible with his display in the 1991 World Cup semi-final. We were beaten by half-time.

When the All Blacks were doing the haka he would do his own thing, kicking a ball around at the other end of the pitch. That never really bothered me. In fact, he got on well with most of the All Blacks I played with...[2]

Sean Fitzpatrick, 'Sean Fitzpatrick's Australia XV', The Times (October 30, 2013)

As far as his rugby playing was concerned, I'd always have Campo in my team. Whenever I was calling moves of any kind, the first thought that came into my head was always, 'How do I get Campo involved in this move?' Funnily enough, a lot of the time his role was as a decoy. We'd use him, our primary weapon, as a runner, to draw defensive cover away from other players. Most of the time he'd end up on the end of the move anyway, because he was a brilliant, supremely gifted player. Also, back in the amateur days, Campo probably prepared better than anybody. He was in the gym a lot more than anyone else and that was on his own time. In some respects he was ahead of his time.

Michael Lynagh, Blindsided: A rugby great confronts his greatest challenge (2015), p 258.

I told the ARU that I would be perfectly willing to advertise the Canterbury range in return for some financial remuneration. It was not going to be enough to outbid Kerry Packer for the latest mansion on the real estate market at Double Bay, but it might fund a visit to a decent store for a jacket or two. I think the sum of $1500 was mentioned. The suggestion was greeted stonily, to say the least. I could imagine how double agents whose cover had been broken were welcomed into the KGB's Moscow headquarters in the old days of Cold War politics. True, I did not feel the cold metal of a pistol in the back of my neck before entering another world, but I saw the door soon enough. [emphasis added]

- David Campese, 'The Loner', On a Wing and a Prayer (1991), 112-3.

But it is my clear conviction that the future of the game in Australia is not at all bright. I do not mean the fortunes of the Wallaby team, or who will win the Sydney or Queensland Grand Final. Those events will continue to be influenced by the changing fortunes of time, just as the oceans of the world are turned into raging torrents or calm, flat surfaces by the wind. That is the way it always has been and always will be. [emphasis added]

- David Campese, 'A Dying Sport?', On a Wing and a Prayer (1991), 162.

  1. Big O far from the end of the line. Retrieved on 10 March 2018.
  2. Sean Fitzpatrick's Australia XV. Retrieved on 29 March 2018.