DEEMED barely good enough to play First XV schoolboy rugby, late bloomer Jock Campbell is making up for lost time in the Queensland Reds’ push for glory.
Having started the Super Rugby AU season on the wing, 25-year-old Campbell has made a silky transition to fullback with form that has not only impressed Reds coach Brad Thorn, but also Wallabies mentor Dave Rennie.
But it was perhaps a Baggy Green cap, rather than the green and gold of the Wallabies, that Campbell had dreams of donning when was a boarding student at The Southport School.
While he played rugby, mainly for the Second XV, the Inverell product preferred cricket.
“I was big on cricket at school, but I was also your typical school kid in that I played a bit of everything,” Campbell said.
“Then I left school and cricket was during the holidays when I wanted to go home, so I didn’t really play match cricket after I finished school.
“I just played my footy and the ball starting rolling from there.
“I went down to UQ (University of Queensland), and they didn’t have any preconceived notions of any players. I thank the UQ coaching staff for where I am today, because they developed my game a lot.”
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Campbell won a premiership with Uni in 2017 and was a shining light at NRC level for Queensland Country under Thorn.
Knowing Campbell’s potential and talent, Thorn eventually picked him for the Reds.
Campbell didn’t disappoint, earning Queensland’s 2019 Rookie of the Year award.
“I’m 25 and a bit older than these younger guys in our squad, but I’ve been in the program compared to some of them for a lot less time. I’m physically young,” he said.
“I’ve got a long way to go. I feel like I can get so much better in a lot of areas. I’m focused on getter better as much as I can, as fast as I can and just keep growing as a player.”
A PONI (Player of National Interest), Campbell has relished the chance to speak with Rennie and Rugby Australia’s director of rugby Scott Johnson.
“It was really good for me. It gave me some real indicators on what I had to do, my strengths, weaknesses, and things they are looking at,” he said.
“It was a good process to be a part of. It was my first time, and it was good to see it through their lens.
“It’s nice to get spoken about nicely and thought of for higher honours, but I’m just focused on the Reds, and whatever happens, happens.”
Campbell tries to keep his game as simple as possible for the Reds, who will qualify for the Super Rugby AU grand final against the Brumbies with a win over the Melbourne Rebels on Saturday night at Suncorp Stadium.
“I get a bit more ball at fullback than on the wing, and my main job is to get our big ball carriers like Jordy (Petaia), Filipo (Daugunu) and Chris (Feauai-Sautia) the ball in space which is when and where they’re most dangerous.
“That’s my role in the team at the moment, and I’m enjoying it.”
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