'Accidental Red' Jock Campbell ready to make his mark

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

A simple scheduling quirk may end up being the best thing that has happened to Queensland rugby.

If not for a draw that had his prospective University of Queensland side playing over the summer break, Jock Campbell may happily be chasing leather around a cricket field rather than hoping to make his Super Rugby debut this season.

Campbell was a solid, if not spectacular, rugby player at The Southport School, playing mostly in the seconds while making a few first XV appearances off the bench for the Gold Coast GPS heavyweights.

But his first love was cricket and that was the sporting direction he initially wanted to take after leaving school.

"To be honest, at school I really loved cricket - probably more than rugby - and I didn't play rugby in under-16s,” Campbell said.

"As I got older, I played rugby a bit more.

"And then cricket was on during the uni holidays when I was going to go home, so I didn't really want to play and I started playing rugby.


"But I didn't really have any goals, I just wanted to start playing for fun and meeting new people.”

UQ though, like TSS has a winning culture and while Campbell set himself the challenge of playing Premier colts for the Red Heavies, he had soon pushed his way into Premier Rugby.

“Premier colts was a goal and then the next year I didn't even think about playing Premier grade, I just wanted to play grade for fun and it just sort of worked out that I played a few games for prem grade that year,”Campbell said.

"The coaches, they're awesome at Uni and I owe a lot to them.

"They just said, keep training and you can be a regular in prem grade.

"So that was a goal and it sort of snowballed from there.”

Campbell is a walking advertisement for Queensland's pathway program.

After making his way through the grades with the Red Heavies, he was selected for Queensland Country, where outstanding campaigns in the back three under Reds coach Brad Thorn led to a contract with the Reds.

"I think it helps that UQ are such a successful team,” he said.

“All the years I've been there we've made finals, so all the players that have been there, I've learnt from them and the coaches are really good.”

Like most who have honed their games at St Lucia, Campbell praises coach Mick Heenan for helping him make the leap to the next level.

“He's honest with you and he's not going to sugar coat it, he'll tell you what you need to do to get better and if you're not doing it, he'll let you know,” Campbell said.

"But also the skills, the basics of the game - like passing, one-on-one tackling, the breakdown - those little skills that often get overlooked as you get higher up, you get the basics down and I think it's lucky that UQ is a good team, so everyone learns off each other as well.”

Campbell knows he will have to continue to hone those skills if he is to make his debut, either on the wing, or at fullback, his preferred position.

With the Reds having the likes of Wallabies young gun Jordan Petaia and experienced recruits Sefa Naivalu and Bryce Hegarty in front of him, Campbell may have to bide his time.

But he is willing to work hard and is finding his voice as a playmaker.

“(Fullback) is more of an organisational role and putting other people away, which I do enjoy, but I've got to get a lot better at organising,” he said.

“Especially here where I'm new, I need to be more vocal and more confident.


 

"I think I'm getting it and the team is demanding it from all our 15s because we've got a few young guys back there.

"I think as a group we're learning to be more more dominant and direct the forwards around because that's what they want.”

Having been part of a winning culture for his entire sporting career, you’d expect Campbell to spot the difference if there was one at the Reds.

But he said the atmosphere created by Thorn and his support coaches Jim McKay and Peter Ryan and fostered by the players was one of togetherness and support.

"The boys in the sheds are always laughing and we're always staying together, after training, we're hanging out. So it's not like a job,” he said.

"I really feel the culture here (is good).

"And that's driven by the coaches - Jim, Thorny and Ryano - they're really strict on the field, making sure everyone is working hard and doing extras, but they allow us to have fun while we're doing it.”

Having become so used to winning early in his career though, Campbell wants to maintain that feeling.

Most would say it will be tough for the Reds but Campbell said the playing group believe the tide is changing.

“I've never played Super Rugby, so I don't know what it's like,” Campbell said.

"But as a team, we're aiming not to lose many games.

"Even though last year we weren't that successful, we're not worried about that, we're like a new team.

"We're a young squad and we're all learning together.

"I think we'll go really well this year.”