The ‘Don Bradman of rugby’ to pass wisdom to Central West’s next generation

MENTORING ROLE: David Campese watches over a Classic Wallabies clinic last year, he's hosting his own clinic at Mudgee on Saturday. Photo: MARINA NEIL/NEWCASTLE HERALD
MENTORING ROLE: David Campese watches over a Classic Wallabies clinic last year, he's hosting his own clinic at Mudgee on Saturday. Photo: MARINA NEIL/NEWCASTLE HERALD

David Campese – he played more 100 Tests, won a World Cup, is referred to as the "Don Bradman of rugby" by grand-slam winning Wallabies coach Alan Jones and is widely-regarded as one of the greatest outside backs to have pulled on an Australian jersey.

Not a bad bloke to learn a thing or two from, really.

That’s a chance Central West’s juniors have on Saturday when Campese lands at Mudgee to run a free clinic, as part of a bumper day at Glen Willow Sporting Complex that also includes NSW Country’s National Rugby Championship clash against Melbourne.

Having spent the best part of the last decade in South Africa, it’s been some time since Campese was in the region but the former try-scoring phenom says it’s a trip he’s looking forward to.

“The last time I was out that way was when I was still playing, I don’t think it was Mudgee but I remember playing for Randwick out in Orange or Bathurst in the early 1990s,” Campese recalled.

“It’s been a while, let’s put it that way. It’s important we do these things, it’s part of what we’re trying to do in getting back to the country. It was always a major part of Australian rugby in the past.

“Super Rugby did change [the landscape] a lot (and) yes, it’s probably a bit overdue but we have to start somewhere, so let’s hope we get enough support.

“I’m sure we will, because we’ve got the National Rugby Championship game too which is certainly something to look forward to.

“I think that’s a great format, it gives the spectators a chance to have a look at the up-and-coming young players and obviously gives those young guys an opportunity to be seen at a high level, which we didn’t really have in the old days.”

Campese’s clinic has already received plenty of the support he’s after, he explained almost 100 youngsters are set to turn up.

“That’s boys and girls too, which is great,” he said.

“It’s for any ages, they just need to turn up. It’ll just be pretty simple, basic skills like catching and passing, wherever I’ve gone in the country the catch-pass has sort of been missing somewhere along the line.

“It’s a part of the game we need the kids doing over and over again. The whole idea of the game is catch, pass, run straight, support, you know. I think even if you watch the Wallabies now … it’s still lacking a bit.

“We might throw in the side-step, swerve, a vision test and that sort of thing, but it’ll just be the basics and a bit of a fun too.”

Campese returned to Australia  with an eye on becoming involved with the Australian rugby’s development, and says all his clinics and David Campese Academy work is geared toward a bigger picture.

“I think we have to teach the coaches now it’s about a different way of playing,” he explained.

“We can still play that way we did in the 80s and 90s when we were really successful, we don’t have to play the way the Kiwis want us to. We’re struggling a bit against that way of playing, so let’s go and do what we have to do.

“If we can start at the grassroots level and get a plan going with what we’re trying to achieve, all of a sudden we’ll be back on track.”

Fortunately for anyone who isn’t able to make it to Campese’s clinic this weekend, everything he teaches he also offers via his social media platforms and his David Campese Academy website.

Saturday’s clinic is free for anyone of any age and experience level, interested players can just show up without registering, it begins at 10am on Glen Willow’s second field.