Wallaby-in-waiting Jock Campbell has earned the stamp of approval from David Campese as Australia’s next fullback.
The legendary Campese has championed Campbell’s smooth moves and specialist skills as a fullback since before the Wallabies played the first of their five Tests this year.
His prediction is coming closer to fruition with the Wallabies still struggling for a consistent solution to their problem spot at No.15.
Campbell said his recent stint in camp and on tour with the Wallabies to Argentina has given him valuable extra knowledge.
What he needs now is game time and the determined Queensland Reds player is delighted to slide into action for University of Queensland in Saturday’s StoreLocal Hospital Cup round. Wallaby halfback Tate McDermott will be a teammate when second-placed UQ take on Sunnybank at St Lucia.
“We play footy to play so I’m really looking forward to a chance to get on the field with UQ after a good block of training in recent weeks,” Campbell said.
“I owe UQ a lot. It’s where I first turned up to grade training and got a run in thirds.”
It will be the two-time premiership winner’s first hitout for his club since the 2020 grand final because a groin injury grounded him at the tail end of 2021.
Round 17 is getting a strong sprinkle of Wallabies across the clubs.
Backrower Harry Wilson and flyhalf James O’Connor will play for Brothers at Crosby Park where they can wrap up a semi-final spot by beating Bond University.
At Courtney Oval, fast-footed Suliasi Vunivalu will enjoy a gallop for top-placed Wests in what should be a high-scoring afternoon against Norths.
Campbell roomed with experienced Reece Hodge on the tour of Argentina where the Wallabies showed great character to win the first Test and tumbled to a ragged loss in the second.
“Obviously, you learn a lot about preparation at the highest level. I did a lot of listening and watching trying to take in as much as I could,” Campbell said.
“’Hodgey’ was a great roomie. In amongst our casual conversation, he was happy to answer anything I wanted to know about things to expect and ideas on fullback play.
“I learnt so much at training, the most I’ve learnt for a while. A lot had to do with detail about positioning when defending off first phase and things like that.”
Campbell said Wallabies coach Dave Rennie had given him work-ons.
It certainly wasn’t about eating more red meat after the overload of quality steaks and ribs in the Argentinian tour diet.
“The physical aspect around ball carries and just speed were the main ones plus, of course, dominating the air which is something for the whole back three. At fullback a lot is about catching the ball on the full and being in the best position to do so,” Campbell said.
“We ate well in Argentina, every type of red meat.”
Campbell’s knack to so often beat the first defender with a shift of his feet or smooth snap into counter-attack have long been eye-catching plusses for the Reds. He carried the same form into games for Australia A in Fiji where he had a strong outing against Samoa but also learnt that a Fijian fend can put you on the seat of your shorts.
He will add a potent extra weapon to the UQ backline which has started to purr in the team’s five-win streak. Last weekend’s win over Bond University (24-21) was won after the bell.
“It’s good to see UQ stacking up the wins. There was always some club chat around the breakfast table on the Wallabies tour. I woke up to that win after the bell against Bond. ‘Wilso’ woke up to a loss after the bell when Brothers were beaten by Easts,” Campbell added.
Hot-and-cold Brothers get a huge lift with Wilson’s high-impact game and O’Connor’s playmaking to enhance the side.
When O’Connor played 40 minutes for Brothers against Souths in July, he made the Brethren sing with a hand in three first half tries. The final score: 47-12.
Wilson is craving rugby. His third Test appearance against England at the SCG on July 16 was his last game.
Vunivalu’s 40 minutes for Wests in July was on a muddy field where the backs had little to do. He needs to get his jets out and run to a standstill.