Super W: Campbell embracing new women's era

Super W
by Jill Scanlon

Growing up in Tokoroa in New Zealand there was never any question that rugby would be the sporting focus for Cheyenne Campbell.

“Dad played and we followed, watched his games, I was even a ball girl for a lot of his games and then I just transitioned into playing,“ she said.

“It was always rugby and touch. I never looked anywhere else sport-wise.”

Crossing the Tasman as a young teenager, Brisbane became home to Campbell, her parents and three of her four siblings.

The Wallaroos have one game left in the World Cup. Photo: ARU MediaHer passion for rugby continued in her new home, at school through league and touch and then into club rugby with Redlands.

As is the case with many female players she has a full-time job, teaching at Shailer Park State High School, where rugby is now gaining some attention as a sporting option.

While the school features Futsal and Volleyball academies, Campbell is pleased there is a growing interest among the female students in rugby, due largely to her emergence as a role model for them, with strong interest in starting a girl’s rugby team.

“We’ve got a few girls that are interested,” she said.

“They’re really eager and now there’s a clear pathway for them it’s becoming a lot more common, which is awesome.

“It’s really cool to know they’re talking about it and watching and they’re aware that girls play and women play.”

The 31-year-old juggles work with her rugby commitments and most importantly her family, including her four-year-old step-daughter Te Iwingaro.

A common theme coming through from the women following the path in top-level rugby, Campbell sites family support as crucial to her ability to continue pursuing her playing career.

“It’s tough but we make it work and having that support of family and friends is a massive help.”

With two World Cups and over 15 caps to her name, Campbell is classed as a veteran but in this new landscape, that tag is worn with pride.

She enjoys being a Wallaroo but admits it’s nice when the team heads to New Zealand to play, a chance to catch up with family even if she is in the green and gold.

“It’s nice to go back there, it’s still going to be home and the fact family can come out and support it and that I get to catch up with them," she said.

"But it’s also the opportunity to just go and play against the top team.”

Campbell has always felt Super W was an inevitable, if long overdue, step for rugby, feeling fortunate that it has finally emerged while she is still playing and, like some of her fellow veterans, it is adding a new element to the discussions around career longevity for her.

“It does change things a bit when I think about continuing to play and to strive for Wallaroos (selection),” Campbell said.

“In the back of my mind that feeling is there because this is a great new pathway and is a platform for higher honours.

“So at the moment I still have the drive and I think as long as I have that drive and I’m committed to making sacrifices and to play and to try and make Wallaroos again, I’ll keep going.”

Campbell also loves the new young talent emerging and that they are being given an opportunity to access a development pathway and is keen to mentor them and as well as give them an understanding of the history of her journey to this point.

“We’ve got some great new talent coming through and will have for many more years to come and you do find yourself in a bit of a mentoring role,” she said.

“I love passing on knowledge and sharing what I know with the younger girls and for some of them, this is all they know; they don’t know what it was like to have to fundraise to go to a tournament.

“If I can pass that knowledge onto the girls, that’s something I can leave as a legacy.”

She also sees the bright future in rugby for her young step-daughter.

“I think if she wants to play rugby when she’s older, we’ll support that one hundred percent because I think there’s no doubt it’s going to take off and be better and I think the more people that get involved and the more exposure we get, people are going to realise women can play and then support them.”

With work, training and a young family, Campbell laughs at the idea of having a hobby as there is no time for special interests.

She happily admits to her family being her ‘special interest’, spending time with her daughter and partner where having a picnic at the beach just can’t be topped for getting away from it all.

Queensland's women will face the NSW women in the Super W final on Friday at Allianz Stadium, kicking off at 4:45pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS. Adults who enter before 5pm can gbuy a GA ticket for the Super W and Super Rugby for just $15.