David Campese

David Campese
David Campese
Full name David Ian Campese
Date of birth 21 October 1962 (1962-10-21) (age 49)
Place of birth Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Australia
Height 180 cm
Weight 89 kg
Notable relative(s) Terry Campese
Rugby union career
Playing career
Position Wing
Professional / senior clubs
Years Club / team Caps (points)
Queanbeyan Whites
New South Wales
Amatori Rugby Milano


National team(s)
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1982-96 Australia 101 (315)
Sevens national teams
Years Club / team Comps
1998 Australia Commonwealth Games
Coaching career
Years Club / team
Murray Mexted International Academy
Natal Sharks
Tonga 7's
Rugby union career
Official website

David Ian Campese (b. 21 October 1962, Queanbeyan, New South Wales), also known as Campo, is a former Australian rugby union player. Campese was capped by the Wallabies 101 times, and held the world record for the most tries in test matches (64) until Daisuke Ohata scored his 65th try playing for Japan on 14 May 2006. He was voted player of the tournament at the 1991 Rugby World Cup after scoring nine tries in tests that season and six in the tournament. He is famous for his "goose-step" — a hitch-kick motion which left opponents stumbling to try to tackle him.


Early rugby career

Campese played touch rugby in his late teens and early stages of his professional career. After one year playing fourth grade for the Queanbeyan Whites, he was elevated to first grade club rugby. After only three years playing rugby union for the Queanbeyan Whites, at age 19, he was selected at fullback for the Australian under 21 side.

Australian under 21s

Campese was a standout performer at fullback for the Australian under 21s side. Then Australian coach Bob Dwyer's first exposure to Campese was at an Australian under 21s game against Fiji. Dwyer recalled in his autobiography, The Winning Way, that Campese had "cut the Fijian defence to shreds". One week later against the New Zealand under 21s, Campese scored a tremendous try to the astonishment of the Sydney crowd. In the book, David Campese, former Australian coach Alan Jones recalls,

"I was at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1982 when this unknown Canberra teenage fullback was playing in what was regarded as something of a trial, a curtain raiser to a Test against a New Zealand Under 21 side, though rarely did anyone from such a trial graduate immediately to much else. People were wandering into the ground and those who were there gave little attention to what was happening on the paddock. But on this day, and not for the first time, a remarkably gifted and fleet of foot Canberra teenager swept into the backline, received the ball at the end of a pass, chip-kicked, accelerated, gathered and scored."

Wallaby star Mark Ella, at that juncture, unaware of Campese's existence, would come to hear much about Campese's efforts. In his book, Running Rugby, Ella recalls,

"Like a lot of other people, I first became aware that a promising young player named David Campese had arrived on the scene when he appeared in a curtain-raiser to a Test against Scotland at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1982. Campese was playing for the Australian under 21s against the New Zealand under 21s. I was a reserve that day for the Test, so I was in the dressing-room and did not watch the curtain-raiser myself, but I soon came to hear about it. Although Australia won the Test against Scotland handsomely, all the talk after the match was about the performance in the curtain-raiser by the fullback from Canberra. Everyone who watched Campese that day had been astonished by his ability."

Shortly after Campese's debut for the Australian under 21 side, as many as ten Australian players made themselves unavailable for an upcoming Australian tour to New Zealand. Despite being short on players, then Australian coach Bob Dwyer had stated that Campese's selection was in part, based on the strength of his performances in Australia. As part of the Australian squad to tour New Zealand, Campese was to become an unlikely Test selection. Despite Australia's then most accomplished winger, Brendan Moon, making himself unavailable for the tour to New Zealand, two other Australian wingers of proven ability, Peter Grigg and Mick Martin, were to tour New Zealand making a Test selection unlikely for Campese. However, Campese continued his dazzling form in early provincial matches on tour, and at age 19, was chosen to play his first Test match for Australia.

The new Wallaby v Stu Wilson

Prior to his first Test Campese was asked by an Australian journalist how he felt marking the All Black great Stu Wilson and responded by saying "Stu who?" Such a statement came as a shock to the New Zealand press, who were quick to write Campese as a brash and arrogant young player. Unbeknownst to all at the time, Campese had in fact not heard of Stu Wilson. Campese later mentioned when interviewed for a video biography of his rugby union life that he had not heard of Stu Wilson because of his rugby league background, and that he had not intended to appear dismissive of the player's talents. Stu Wilson, however, was aware of Campese's comments which served as motivation for him to put the young Australian in his place. However, Campese would go on to make a tremendous impression on New Zealand soil by outfoxing the legendary Wilson, widely regarded then as the best winger in the world at the time, by utilizing the goose-step. In his autobiography, On A Wing And A Prayer, Campese was quick to play down the significance of his success against Wilson:

"I beat Stu Wilson, the All Black wing, a few times, on a couple of occasions by employing the goose-step. So much has been made of that fact over the years that it has been blown out of all proportion."

He would later add, "I had no discipline, was very young and wanted to do everything myself." Campese had, in fact, tried to pick up the ball with one hand in the first test and knocked on. Later he tried to change the ball in his hands when running towards defender, Allan Hewson, and dropped the ball. These were a testament to Campese's unpredictability. However, he did score his first international try in a significant fashion. Campese gathered a chip-kick from Mark Ella late in the game, signifying the beginning of a partnership that would bring great success to Australia for years to come.

But Campese's opinions on his own performances were not shared by Wilson, who would later go on to say that it was an honour to have played against Campese:

Well, David Campese hit New Zealand, his first tour over here. We'd heard about this brash, upstart little prick from Sydney – you know, he was running around, goose-stepping, and saying he'd do this and do that. We saw him during the provincial games. He was good – without a doubt the most exciting talent we'd seen for years – and I'm saying, 'He's on my wing, I have to mark him.' So I said to the big gorillas, 'Look boys, I catch him, we get him in the ruck, you do it to him: we'll give him the good, old fashioned New Zealand welcome, all right? I want size-fifteen boots right over the top of him.' They said, 'Can you catch him?' I said, 'I'll try.' Well, for three Tests I tried but couldn't catch him. We had the boys sharpening their sprigs. They said, 'Stuey, this time we'll get him.' I even brought Bernie Fraser over from the other wing and gave him 10 minutes. I said, 'Bernie, you come have a crack at him. I can't catch him – he's too quick.' He had the goose-step, he had the chip and chase, he had the typical cockiness of all Australian backs. But we just couldn't get near him – he was that good. He knew that we were after him, and he knew that if he'd got into the Doctor Death House, as we used to call the rucks, then Doctor Death would deliver. So he would always scoot around. When he got into the heavy weather, he'd make sure that he'd scramble out of the rucks before our boys could get to him. A good player, damn him. He made life hell for me for three tests.

Campese was a significant part of a new Australian side trying to pioneer an exciting running game designed by backline specialist Bob Dwyer. And in the second test Campese was quick to assert himself, scoring one try before setting up Glen Ella for a second. Australia would go on to win the game 19–16. The series had now come alive at 1–1 and a crowd of 52,000 was crammed into Eden Park to see the final game. With Australia leading after half-time, Campese was quick to create some controversy by making a sensational break that led to a disallowed try. Scottish referee Alan Howie had ruled Campese's pass was thrown forward, a decision that was even contested by the All Black press, who called it a "flat pass". The try would have put Australia 18–6 ahead, but the momentum swung New Zealand's way and they ended up winning 33–18.

The Australian team, however, made a positive impression on the New Zealand public during the tour and Campese was among those celebrated for their entertaining style of play. Terry McLean, writing in the New Zealand Herald wrote after the tour that Campese "could side-step his way out of a sealed paper bag." Regarding Campese's early impressions on New Zealand soil, former All Black breakaway Graham Mourie would compliment him by saying:

Campo came onto the scene as a very young player, and unknown player in that series, and I think gave Stu Wilson nightmares. I think Stuey got a bit of a towelling by Campo during that series. You know, he had one or two innovations: the old stutter step was something which nobody had really seen before. These days, with video analysis, it's quite hard for players to have anything that's out of the ordinary or anything new, because when something is done once or twice, it's analyzed to death after that. But I think Campo with his style and his speed and his flair was certainly a bit of an individual. He took us by surprise. Stu got a bit of stick for that because he was probably our star winger in that period. He'd been with the All Blacks from 1976, 1977, right through and was an outstanding winger. Stuey never got near Campo. I mean, Campo was exceptional. He might've been a bit frightened, too, maybe, but we never caught him.

Hit and miss in 1983

1983 was to prove a year of mixed results for Campese. His good form continued against the USA, where he scored four tries in a formidable 49–3 win for Australia. Australia would then host Argentina for a two test series when they were outclassed by an immense Argentine scrum in the first test, resulting in a 3–18 loss.

Campese, however, was dazzling with his efforts in the second game. So much so, that then established Australian fullback, Roger Gould (who did not play in the game due to injury) would later confess to feeling a "chill wind" as he watched the match on television. Campese and Mark Ella linked together to create the try of the series. Playing at fullback, Campese beat two defenders who had him hemmed in on the sideline. He beat the second (Bernardo Miguens) with a well executed goose-step. Bob Dwyer would later remark that of all Campese's tries, that was the one to remember. In his book, The Winning Way, Dwyer wrote of Campese's effective goose-step,

"An Argentine defender had Campese well covered, but when he moved in to tackle him, Campese did his famous goose-step. The change of pace deceived the Argentine so comprehensively that he dived into touch, clutching thin air. The referee, the Welshman Clive Norling, was so impressed by this that he went up to Campese as soon as he had scored and told him it was the best try he had ever seen."

Campese, however, would show less than brilliance against New Zealand in their one-off match in 1983 despite setting Simon Poidevin up for a try. Entrusted with the goal-kicking duties, as well as the fullback role, Campese failed to manage a single success in four attempts at the sticks. This was in contrast to New Zealand's Allan Hewson, a renowned sharp shooter in front of the sticks, who managed five from six attempts at the goals. Bob Dwyer later said: "If we had been able to take even the conversion points it would have given us heart." Australian captain Mark Ella seriously contemplated replacing Campese and attempting the kicking duties himself, but he later reflected: "Who's to say I'd have done any better?" Campese summed up his disappointment by exclaiming in his autobiography: "I felt like kicking myself but I probably would have missed." Campese's positional play, as fullback, was also found wanting in the game, as All Black centre Steven Pokere's kicking found Campese out several times.

It was, for Campese, his first experience in being a target for criticism in the media. Campese recalls in his book, My Game Your Game:

"My first bitter experience was in 1983, when we played the All Blacks at the Sydney Cricket Ground in a one-off Bledisloe Cup game. My general play was fine, but we had gone into the game without a recognised goal-kicker. Our regular fullback Roger Gould was injured and yours truly was given the job. None out of four was the end result and the All Blacks won the Test 18–8, despite Australia scoring two tries to one. The press had a great time with that one."

Campese was to later redeem himself against Italy, where a day after celebrating his 21st birthday, he managed to land three conversions and a penalty. Bob Dwyer earlier suggested that Campese have another try at kicking after sensing he was in good form. On the test eve Dwyer stated: "If David starts well, he'll kick well all day. But conversely, if he starts badly, then that's the end of him." Campese continued with the kicking responsibilities in a series against France, but played a diminished role in the games as Australia elected a less expansive style of play. The safety-first style of rugby was not one suited to maximise the capabilities of the tricky winger.

The Grand Slam

Australia successfully completed the "Grand Slam" with the side which included Campese as well as Mark Ella, Nick Farr-Jones and Michael Lynagh. To this day, the 1984 series remains the only time the Wallabies have completed the Grand Slam.


The Wallabies had a nervy start in the game against England, the first international test of the Grand Slam tour. Campese almost scored early on by chasing a high kick from Michael Lynagh. Australia settled later on after tries from Ella and Lynagh, before Campese was to make a break down the left leading to a gem of a try. Nick Farr-Jones had received the ball coming from the line-out, who in turn passed the ball to Roger Gould who threw a long wayward pass, which Mark Ella astoundingly caught while running and leaning forward at the same time displaying his safe hands. Finding the English defence lacking in numbers, Ella passed to Campese who was off trying to out-sprint English winger Rory Underwood. Ella was quick to run in support, but was marked by English debutant Stuart Barnes. Running out of space and about to be bundled into touch, Campese lofted a pass to Simon Poidevin, who scored the final try. Australia won 19–3.


Campese was quick to make an impact in the second game against Ireland. As Michael Lynagh ran a diagonal angle, he shaped to pass to outside centre Andrew Slack but instead slipped it to David Campese in a switch play. Campese accelerated through a gap, which the Irish number eight[who?] allowed by not moving across quickly, leading to an incisive run by Campese where he stepped off both feet to beat two defenders. "Early in that game I made a run, and I stepped through a couple of guys and gave the ball to Simon Poidevin." Campese then passed the ball to Simon Poidevin, who had the simple task of either running to the try line, or passing the ball to Matthew Burke on the right wing. Seeing Irish fullback Hugo MacNeill trying to stop the try, Poidevin hesitated, was caught in two minds and ended up throwing a forward pass to Burke, bombing what should have been a certain try.

Later on the second half, Campese gathered a wayward pass by Roger Gould before stepping past one defender and keeping the ball alive after being tackled. The ball found its way to Mark Ella on the left wing, who looped Campese before he beat a defender. As Ella ran along the wing, Campese was quick to get up and support Ella, who kicked the ball up-field for Campese to run on to. The ball stopped a metre or so before the line, and Campese, needing a deft touch of the boot to get the ball over the line and fall over it, was unable to finish off the try in a desperately close miss.

Campese would repay Ella later, however, by gifting Ella a simple try. With five minutes left and the scores tied at 9–9, Ella scored the try he considered the most important of his career. After second-rower Steve Cutler won the ball at a line-out, Ella ran straight at his opposite number Paul Dean, as far as the advantage line. The Irish open-side flanker was slow to move up on Ella, and Deans, who wanted to mark Michael Lynagh, had to cover Ella. As this happened Ella slipped a short-ball to Michael Lynagh leading to a break. Lynagh neatly unloaded to Matt Burke, running in from the blind-side wing. Burke was then tackled 10 metres from the tryline but managed to pass to Campese, who had two defenders trying to stop him. Renowned in his team for his love of try-scoring, Campese with his talent for deceiving defenders, could have scored the try. Instead he side-stepped inside, confusing the defender most likely to tackle him, and allowing himself to be tackled by the second defender while he slipped a pass to Mark Ella, in support as always, who was completely unmarked and scored his second try of the tour.

The book Wallaby Gold documents Ella's recollection of the crucial game-winning try:

Campo went in with a big step. He took a couple of guys with him. Then he stepped out. Sometimes it's hard to get the ball off Campo, but he saw I was free and gave it.” Ella later recalled in a laughing manner in the ABC special, The Rise and Rise of Australian Rugby, his exact thoughts as he ran in support of Campese, "I know he's gonna score, I know he's gonna go, it's too… I know I'm unmarked but I know he's going to try and beat the two Irish defenders."

"I hope he was grateful," the try-scoring lover Campese recalled, "I don't think he was."


When discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the then Australian coach, Alan Jones, David Campese has often remarked of his attention to detail, his obsession of knowing everything about the opposition, and being able to exploit what may be a potential weakness in the opposition. He often uses the example of the Welsh game from 1984 to prove this. Jones had learned through his sources, that Eddie Butler, the Welsh number 8, had not played a game for three weeks and felt Australia should utilise the blind-side. "As a tactician, one of Jones' strong points was his ability to spot opposition weaknesses." Campese wrote in his tribute book David Campese,

"Before we played Wales in 1984, he suggested he play the blinds. He had noticed the Welsh number 8, Eddie Butler, had not played for three weeks and he had a hunch he would not be fit. So the first chance I got I went down the blind side and from that we scored under the posts."

As Australian number 8 Steven Tuynman took the ball from the back of the scrum, he searched for Nick Farr-Jones, utilizing the blind under Jones' command. Farr-Jones occupied Campese opposite winger and passed the ball to him, allowing Campese to run along the left wing. At the start of his run, Campese was able to run right past Eddie Butler, who was unable to make the defending tackle. But Campese's run was not over yet, he swerved past the Welsh fullback, and executed a wonderful sidestep to get past the Welsh inside center. Campese's sidestep led him toward a group of defenders, so he then offloaded to Simon Poidevin, who quickly passed the ball to Michael Lynagh who scored an easy try under the post. Australia went on to win 28–9 in one of their greatest victories at the time.


Despite his amazing runs and terrific support play, Campese had remained tryless in the 1984 Grand Slam success until he reached Murrayfield to play the Scottish team. Campese scored two tries and perhaps could have scored three. The first required little effort as Roger Gould crashed into two defenders and got a pass off to Andrew Slack, who passed to Campese, who was completely unmarked to run into the corner for the simplest of tries. Campese's counter-attacking, in particular, was a highlight of the Scotland game. Early on he had caught a high ball running backwards before proceeding to run horizontally to beat the Scottish open-side flanker, then swerving to beat the Scottish inside center, before side-stepping the Scottish outside center. Campese then passed to Ella, who uncharacteristically fumbled the ball, but the signs were ominous that Campese was at his best.

Later on in the second half, Roger Gould made a break and had the chance to pass to Campese, who most likely would have scored. Gould, however, had promised Mark Ella his 4th try for the tour so he may have a Grand Slam of tries. Instead of going outside to Campese, he went inside to Ella, who was left unmarked as the Scottish five-eighth had expected Gould to pass to Campese. Gould has often joked at how he had to justify to Campese the reasoning behind not giving him a try, knowing all too well Campo loves his tries.

Toward the end of the game Campese booted the ball downfield. Australia's other winger, Peter Grigg, missed a tackle, allowing Scotland a possible chance to counter-attack. Grigg ran back to fix the mess he felt he created and intercepted the ball from Scottish prop Ian Milne. Grigg threw the ball to Ella, who in turn threw it to Campese. Campese had space to run with, and was able to beat the Scottish defender while passing to Australian number eight Steve Tuynman on the wing. Campese swiftly ran to support Tuynman, who in being tackled got a pass off to Campese.

Bill McLaren would go on to become one of Campese's biggest fans,

"So it was in Edinburgh, where in 1984 he had brought the Murrayfield crowd to its feet with a vintage performance culminating in a typically gorgeous try, that I caused him some embarrassment by thanking him for the vast pleasure he had given me in commentary at matches in which he had been involved."

Years later when McLaren would pick his personal selections for an all-time rugby XV, he would go on to call David Campese the greatest rugby player he had ever seen.

Humiliating Robert Ackerman

Australia would go on to play against the Barbarians one week after winning the Grand Slam. That match is perhaps best remembered for David Campese's zig-zagging run that turned Welsh centre Robert Ackerman inside out in the process, before Campese, opting not to run past Ackerman in the process of embarrassing him, but rather offered himself to be tackled before passing the ball to Michael Hawker for a try.

It was later revealed that Campese and Ackerman had encountered a few personal scrapes with one another during different moments of their careers. Ackerman had previously played club rugby in Canberra not long before the Barbarians game, and according to Mark Ella in his book, Running Rugby, the two men did not get along with each other. After the Wallabies 1984 win against Wales at Cardiff Arms Park, Campese claimed Ackerman had buried his head in the dirt during the game, adding to a sense of tension between the two. This tension further increased between the two, as Ackerman bumped into David Campese, Michael Lynagh and then Australian coach, Alan Jones, as they were entering the Angel Hotel in Cardiff. Ackerman walked up to the Wallabies coach and said in the presence of the two Australian backs, after Australia had beaten Wales 28 points to 9, "Congratulations, I didn't think your backs were too good today." Ackerman also expressed that, "You can't say your players are better individually than ours. Man on man, there is little difference."

Ackerman's comments upset Alan Jones, who would later write a tribute to Campese in the book, David Campese, regarding Campese's retaliation with his zig-zagging run: "In particular, I shall never forget the Barbarians game at Cardiff Arms Park to end our Grand Slam tour of 1984. We weren't in such good shape – our discipline had surrendered to celebration after beating Scotland and we knew this was to be Europe's game of retribution against us. We seemed to be constantly counter-attacking to get out of trouble and then Campese struck. He made a break from within his own half, the defence came at him and he stepped left and right with remarkable speed. And in the twinkling of an eye, the try line was his. But he had one defender to beat, the Welsh centre Robert Ackerman. Ackerman, unfortunately, had criticised the Australian victory after our crushing victory in the Test against Wales and Campo didn't have the words to retaliate then. But he retaliated now, with his feet and hands. He turned Ackerman inside out, threatening to go past, then changing direction, offering himself to be tackled then accelerating away until the crowd erupted, first in disbelief, then in sheer amusement and joy at what they were seeing. One yard from the line, Campo passed to Michael Hawker, and I'm sure, to this day, the pass was forward, but the referee knew he had seen artistry of incomparable dimension at work and the only reward he could offer was a try, which he duly did. It's an image I'll always associate with Campese. It remains for me the metaphor of his career."

In his book, Running Rugby, Mark Ella described Campese's desire to flaunt his talents and be a showman: "If Campese wanted to, I am sure he could have sprinted for the corner and scored the try. Instead, he ran straight at Ackerman. The Welshman obviously knew enough about Campese to realise it was useless to try and tackle him front-on. Instead, he did what I suggested earlier that any defender should do against Campese – he ran with him. It was then that Campese began to zigzag, forcing Ackerman to zigzag, too, looking over one shoulder after another to see which way Campese was heading. I was following about 20 metres behind and could not believe what was happening. I have no doubt that Campese turned it on to make a personal point with Ackerman. When the defence eventually closed in on him, Campese flicked a pass over his shoulder to Michael Hawker, who scored the try."

On an ABC special entitled, The Rise and Rise of Australian Rugby, Ackerman admitted Campese could have passed him at any stage if he wanted to: "My line of thinking was is all I was trying to do in that time was to stall him. At the end of the day if he wanted to Campo could have just burnt me off on the outside. But I was just looking for a bit of cover and as it happened I did stall him and he didn't score that one. I was the player he made a fool of if anybody needs to remember."

The Bradman of rugby

Australia desperately missed Campese in the one-off Bledisloe Cup game in 1985 which was lost 9–10. Mark Ella later wrote that, "Without David Campese, our backs seemed to have forgotten how to score tries." Australia was also without genius Ella, who had retired after the Grand Slam tour. Campese started off 1986 with perhaps his most complete performance at the time against Italy, scoring two tries. Campese was then moved to fullback for the injured Roger Gould in a one-off game against France, scoring a try and providing Australia another quality performance. Campese's good form did not subside in the following two-Test series against Argentina. In the second game of that series, Campese ensured he would start the upcoming series against New Zealand in his favoured fullback role when he scored two of Australia's three tries. The second try was spectacularly scored. In an explosion of pace, Campese hit the line and took a pass from centre Brett Papworth. At full pace, Campese swept past the Pumas and scored what was his sixth try in his last four games.

With Campese scoring tries at an amazing rate and providing Australia with a string of dazzling performances, Australian coach Alan Jones would, in typical Jones exaggeration, proclaim David Campese to be "the Bradman of rugby". Jones expressed that Campese had a very special talent, and nobody in rugby had more talent. Jones' proclamation was well documented by the Australia media, and ultimately had a detrimental affect on Campese. As the weight of expectation grew, so too did the criticisms for any mistake Campese made. In his autobiography, Campese explains, "When he called me 'the Bradman of rugby football' it was an extraordinary compliment to pay anyone, and it left me quite stunned when I first heard him use it. Higher praise would not be possible for a rugby player in Australia, and it really made me think. But the trouble was that when I made a mistake, and especially if it had been expensive, he would throw this phrase back at me, saying, 'I told people you were the Bradman of rugby and now you have let me down.'"

A Bledisloe win

Campese was part of the 1986 Australian team to conquer the New Zealand All Blacks on New Zealand soil for the first time since 1949. Campese played at fullback for most of the tour as a replacement for the injured Roger Gould. There is a consensus belief that Campese played very well on the tour, despite many unsavory moments.

Campese asserted himself into the first test by kicking forward a loose pass from Nick Farr-Jones from which he went on to score a try. Later in the game he made a wide pass to Australian winger Matthew Burke, resulting in another Australian try giving them a 13–6 lead. Campese also had a forgettable moment in the Test when, playing at full back, he caught a high ball and was about to kick it when he stalled, began to have second thoughts and decided to run the ball. In his indecision he was tackled while attempting a suicidal pass to Matthew Burke, which landed near Burke's feet. Joe Stanley was quick to scoop up the ball, who came close to the try line before passing the ball to Mark Brooke-Cowden, leading to an All Black try. The Wallabies spent the last 10 or so minutes desperately defending their narrow lead. Fortunately for Campese, Australia won the game 13–12, as a loss to the Baby Blacks would have led to great criticisms in costing a game many thought Australia would easily win.

Australian coach Alan Jones, however, was tolerant of Campese's blunder stating that, "By scoring a try and setting up another, Campese more than cancelled out his late blemish." Jones later went public, stating that Campese would remain fullback for the remaining two Tests. A day after the first Test, a melancholy Campese glumly confessed, "I still feel sick about that pass. It was the worst moment of my life. I'll never forget the looks on the faces of the other guys." Campese remarked he once had been told if he ever started thinking what he was going to do before he took the field he should retire. "I was thinking too much before the Test," the instinctive genius admitted. "I listened to everybody. Then I went out simply to be rock-safe and not make a mistake." Narked by constant claims Campese was better suited to the wing, Alan Jones shot back at the New Zealand media claiming, "New Zealanders are trying to get into Campese's mind. They want him to feel flawed and erratic when he plays fullback."

Shortly after the first Test, the Australian team had a variety night, where each player had to 'dress up' and perform an act. Australian coach Alan Jones dressed as Al Jolson and gave a rendition of 'Swanee'. Australian winger Peter Grigg performed an act portraying a drunken New Zealand dairy farmer. Many other Wallabies dressed as professional wrestlers. But perhaps the most memorable performance came from Wallaby lock, Steve Cutler, who performed a Wallabies' version of then popular game show Sale of The Century. His first question was "Who scored two tries at Athletic Park on Saturday?" Cutler enlightened the confused Wallabies with the answer. "Campo. He scored one for us and one for them."

In the second test Campese played what he felt was a poor game at fullback by dropping a few high bombs on a wet and dreary day. This led to some controversy as Campese would later claim that then Australian coach, Alan Jones, had made an insulting remark about him behind his back by telling his teammates after the game, "Don't worry, fellows, you played without a fullback today." This reportedly occurred behind while Campese was in the showers (Campese was often the first player to hit the showers). In his book, For Love Not Money, former Wallaby Simon Poidevin refutes such claims by Campese, "Tales of Jonsey screaming at Campese in the dressing-room immediately after the game for the poor way he played that afternoon was absolute nonsense. Nothing at all was said by anyone for nearly three-quarters of an hour, and the only noise I can recall was that of tough men openly sobbing from disappointment."

Campese, with his delicate sensitivities, was upset at hearing what had allegedly happened. In his autobiography On A Wing and a Prayer, Campese asserts he later tried to apologize to Jones for his unintentional mistake, which resulted in a verbal barrage of insults from Jones which lasted many minutes. In Nick Farr-Jones' autobiography, Nick Farr-Jones, an account is given of Farr-Jones overhearing Jones' verbal barrage before attempting to pacify the situation, "Farr-Jones happened to be passing soon after Campese had gone in, and could hear snatches of Jones' words, no less forceful for having to penetrate the door. 'You've let me down,' he remembers Jones saying. 'I told the press you were the Bradman of rugby and now you've done this to me… I simply don't understand how you could play like that… you made a complete fool of yourself…' Etcetera." Farr-Jones eventually entered the room to defuse the situation.

Campese became dejected and sullen soon after, predicting he had played his last game at fullback for Australia. A few hours after his attempted apology, Campese declared to his close friend, Mark Ella, that he was now ready to retire from rugby. Ella, a close friend of Campese, insisted Campese continue to play rugby. Gordon Bray writes in the tribute book David Campese, "The world's rugby enthusiasts can be grateful that Mark Ella consoled his teammate that night."

Alan Jones refuted the accusations of slander saying, "That's just rubbish. I'm sure I've said to someone with a smile on my face we played without a fullback today. And I'm sure it was Campo, after he's probably done or two bad things and 15 good things. It would be like telling Miss World she was the ugliest person in the room when she knows full she's the best looking bird who's ever set foot in the building. But it wasn't that day. That wasn't the day for that sort of stuff. But it doesn't matter. It's part of the folklore of the whole deal and it's one man's word against another's."

Alan Jones selected Campese on the wing for the final test instead of fullback. With Campese on the wing, a young All Black named John Kirwan was to mark him for the first time. Kirwan had missed the 1984 Bledisloe series due to injury, Campese likewise in 1985, and 1986 was to be the first time the two would meet in what would become a great rivalry between the two great wingers. Campese remained quiet for most of the game, however, he did score a try late in the game. With Australia closing in on victory, Campese scored a try on the inside of Kirwan while Kirwan was concerned about the man outside of him, turning him inside out. It would not the only time Campese would do that to Kirwan. The try clinched the series. Australia's first series win on New Zealand soil since 1949. In the book, Path to Victory, Mark Ella writes: "It was good to see David Campese get that last try because by now he had no confidence at all. He was absolutely shot to pieces."

World Cup woes

On the back of this achievement, the Wallabies were the favourites for the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987. An injury impeded Campese's campaign and Australia's hopes were dashed with a semi-final loss to a Serge Blanco-inspired France, though Campese did score and take the world record for tries in the process.

Australia entered a slump after the World Cup and suffered heavy defeats in the Bledisloe Cup and in 1988 Campo's opposite number John Kirwan gave him a runaround on many occasions, a mauling that severely affected his confidence. Campese capped off the year scoring five tries in a European tour.

In the 1989 series against the British and Irish Lions, which Australia was widely expected to win, Campese famously gifted a soft try to the Lions in the third test when he recklessly tried to run the ball from his own try line. This resulted in the Lions winning the test as well as the series.

Campo's corner

"David Campese liked to play his rugby of the highwire – without a safety net", Gordon Bray once wrote, "When he slips, the result can be catastrophic."

Campo's corner, it came to be known. The patch of turf at the Paddington end of the Sydney Football Stadium, on the eastern side of the ground, where a wayward pass gave the Lions a try and catapulted wing genius David Campese into controversy. The event itself would become Campese's career low point for which he is still criticised to this day.

The Australian side had never won a series against the British and Irish Lions at the time in 1989, and there was a general feeling amongst the Australian players that was about to change. Australia defeated the Lions easily in the first match, by utilising the boot of Michael Lynagh to make the Lions forwards run around the paddock. Campese, however, played a diminished role in the win due to these tactics, a trend that would continue for much of the series. Australia would go on to lose the second game in a violent affair, leaving the series tied at 1–1, and setting the stage for the horrific moment that is often associated with Campese's fallibility.

Australia had struggled to a 12–9 lead early in the second half of the third game when Lions five-eighth Rob Andrew missed with an attempted dropped goal. At that point, the game was being decided between the boots of Michael Lynagh and the Lion's Gavin Hastings. Campese had hardly seen the ball when he caught the ball in his in-goal and started off with a mind to counter attack. He was immediately confronted by Lions winger Ieuan Evans before throwing a loose pass to fullback Greg Martin, who was completely unaware of Campese's surprising intentions. The ball struck Martin on the shoulder and bounced away. Evans, who had the mere job of falling on the ball, played the opportunist to score in a moment of complete disaster.

There was a sense of horror about what Campese had just done. Standard procedure on such an occasion is to simply ground the ball in the in-goal, which would have allowed Australia to restart play twenty-two metres downfield. With his tremendous boot, Campese could also have run the ball out of the in-goal and simply booted the ball far downfield and into touch. Rather than playing the percentages, Campese had failed in a seemingly mindless and illogical attempt to do something creative. However, Jack Pollard, author of Australian Rugby: The Game And The Players, always maintained that Campese's idea that day was a good one. Pollard happened to be sitting adjacent to where the incident occurred, so he had a good view of it. He said that the Lions' defence on that side of the field was under-manned and that there was a real opportunity for a counterattack, which Campese obviously recognised. If Martin had taken the pass, Pollard said, Australia might have scored instead of the Lions. So in Pollard's view it was a clever move – just poorly executed. "It was my fault because I tried to step inside and pass at once, thinking that Evans would come with me," Campese wrote in his autobiography On a Wing and a Prayer. "In fact, when I passed, he was in between me and Martin, and when I threw such a hopeless pass he had a simple job in touching it down…. I still think the idea was perfectly sound, it was just that the execution was wrong."

Campese was devastated as Australia ended up losing 18–19 and thus lost the series. As Campese walked off the ground a fan shouted, "Hey Campo, that's another Test you've lost for Australia". It was a memory that would remain with him. Campese's fragile state of mind was not helped by, according to Campese, an after match snubbing by his team mates. According to Campese, none of his team mates spoke to him in the dressing room or offered a word of consolation. Many of them gave him solemn stares leaving the impression of what they thought of him. This deeply offended Campese, who felt as let down by his team mates as they were by his mistake. Campese has often reflected upon his appreciation of a few small words Australian coach Bob Dwyer offered to him after the game, "Mate, forget it. It's one of those things."

While Campese was widely blamed for losing the test and the series, coach Bob Dwyer said after the match: "I don't think that try cost us the game at all." The Australians were beaten in the forwards, unable to control a Lions pack spearheaded by backrowers Mike Teague and Dean Richards, prop David Sole and second rower Paul Ackford. The Australians were under pressure in the scrum, losing one with feed on the opposition line, and on several occasions were stripped of the ball at the breakdown. Campese himself had stated he felt the whole incident was beyond blown out of proportion, and that to single out one mistake in a game where many mistakes can be made is silly. Campese has often expressed his view that losing the tighthead on the opposition line was also a horrible mistake made at a crucial moment. Bob Dwyer has, in fact, in the past singled out the '89 Lions tour as a series which revealed an attitude in the Australian forwards which could be deemed "too soft". In essence, Campese's famous blunder may have been how the Lions series was lost, but not necessarily why.

The criticisms aimed at Campese after Campo's Corner were unrelenting in the ongoing weeks and months. Members of the Australian media and former Australian players called for his sacking. As a man who enjoyed the media spotlight, Campese felt a deep sense of offence that the media he had become accustomed to, no longer sought the Campese interview or his opinion, but were more content with criticising him. Former Australian captain, Andrew Slack, publicly blasted Campese in the papers fuming that, "You do not play Mickey Mouse rugby like that in the Green and Gold of Australia." Slack would go on to criticize Campese's time spent in Italy, claiming Campese had become ill-disciplined as a result of his time spent there. Slack referred to Campese's pass as "Spaghetti rugby". Australian rugby writer Greg Campbell queried if Campo was now a 'legend of liability'. Campese commented to Gordon Bray, the day after his mistake that he once again felt like retiring.

Campese would later give a logical viewpoint of his mistake in his autobiography — that being creative has led to an impressive number of tries, and that the risk of failure is something always at stake when one looks to be creative. Campese, after all, had succeeded with some of rugby's most brilliant runs and plays that were against the tide of play. "If you want an ordinary wing, that's fine, just don't look up the record books which tell you some players can score 30 or 40 tries in their career, and then wonder why your guys don't do that."

In response to the rush of criticisms aimed at Campese, Nick Farr-Jones, the then Australian captain, would write a letter to The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper defending Campese:

Not only as captain of the national team, but as an Australian, it disturbs me to hear and read the constant and at times vilifying attacks by rugby followers and the press on one of our greatest sportsmen, David Campese.
Campo's blunder last Saturday was careless and costly. But few of the Australian players would be satisfied with their performances, including myself. Campo will hopefully learn by the mistake and the whole team, I am sure, will not only show tremendous spirit in Australian rugby but will improve on individual performances when matched against the might of New Zealand in August.
To Campo I say: Yes, one bad mistake on Saturday which I know you will learn from, but, mate, if I were a selector you would always be one of the first picked, with no handcuffs of chains to inhibit you.
Nick Farr Jones

However, the harsh reaction to Campese's error was not to subside. David Campese's brother, Mario, was later attacked outside a pub. When asked if he was the brother of David Campese, the simple answer of "yes" lead to a punch. It was not the first time his brother would be attacked. To protect Campese's sensitive frame of mind, Campese's family concealed his brother's attacking for months to prevent Campese from becoming more emotionally upset.

Two years later, during a dinner at the start of the world cup, in an official publication for the tournament, Campese noticed an advertisement for a music store. The full-page ad, for a range of rugby videos, featured a photograph of Campese with the heading reading, "Watch him fumble whenever you want." Campese later confessed he had a burning desire at the 1991 World Cup to leave new memories for the people who only wanted to ponder of the negatives of his game. A goal he undoubtedly achieved. However, Campo's Corner has been forever since linked with Campese's legacy of highs and lows. As a rugby player heavily into credit when weighing his positive contributions against his negative contributions to the game of rugby, people have tended to ponder upon his weaknesses; this is partly due to the strong memory of Campo's Corner.

His finest moment

David Campese once said, "I want to be remembered like Barry John in Wales. I want people to look back and say Campo did this, this and this."[attribution needed] After the 1991 Rugby World Cup, former Welsh great Barry John said,

"Like Pelé, he is associated with the very best and historic moments in sport; he has a special genius which shows an individual can still paint his own portrait and leave an indelible mark for all to treasure. The ingredients are all the same: stature, presence, personality, style and an immense belief in the God-given talents."[attribution needed]

In 1991 Campese had perhaps the highest point of his career, being named Man of the Tournament for the World Cup. Campese was now one of the most dangerous players in World Rugby, devoid of the undisciplined tendencies that crept up from time to time earlier on in his career and still the tricky unpredictable winger that opposition wingers had nightmares of.[citation needed] Campese was so immense in Australia's success that Nick Farr-Jones would go on to say that Australia might not have won the World Cup if not for him.[citation needed] Campese scored tries against Argentina (2), Wales (1), Ireland (2) in an exciting quarter-final and in the semi-final victory against the defending champions New Zealand. The match against New Zealand was, at the time, considered as important as any game in Australia's rugby history. As the All Blacks lined up to perform the haka, one man intently stood behind the goals, practicing his kicking in preparation for one of rugby's all-time great performances.

Campese scored the first Wallaby try in the 12th minute, drifting off the blind wing into the five-eighth position to take the first pass from the ruck. He then angled across field to turn his arch rival, John Kirwan, inside out before touching down. Many who saw the try[who?] were confounded as to why the All Black defenders allowed Campese to run such an angle. Bob Dwyer himself felt that the All Blacks were afraid to move out of their line of defence to stop Campese. Whatever the reason, Campese was quick to make an immediate impact on the match.

In the 35th minute he gathered a chip-kick from Australian five-eighth Michael Lynagh which he foresaw, allowing him to speed up before the kick was made. All Black winger John Timu gave chase to Campese, while Campese avoided All Black full-back Kieran Crowley with a side-step. Campese's efforts to get past Crowley had allowed Timu to make some ground in his desperate pursuit to tackle Campese. Knowing he couldn't score with two defenders so close to him, Campese made a career-defining pass which epitomised his mercurial nature. With two defenders about to tackle him, Campese made a blind throw over his shoulder to Australian center Tim Horan, who went on to score the try. Despite never seeing Horan, Campese later boasted: "I knew Tim was there, I was just trying to suck the winger in and next thing I knew I was looking up the ground to see Tim put the ball down."

In a more descriptive narration of the try, Campese would also add:

I realised I had Timu on the outside, so I had to try and get him into the place where I wanted him. So I stepped one way, stepped the other, and I could see Timmy Horan coming. I could see Timmy there and he was calling. No, it wasn't a Hail Mary pass. I was on that angle, and it was the only pass I could do. I couldn't turn around, because otherwise Timu would've seen what I was doing. So I was really trying to get him in a position and Timmy just came behind. If I tried it again it probably wouldn't have worked. It was like one of those times where everything sort of clicked.

The try remains a testament to Campese's mercurial nature of electing unorthodox, complicated and unpredictable methods to rugby scenarios, and while his pass was hailed for its brilliance, perhaps it showed the same daring, imagination and unpredictability of his failed pass during the 1989 Lions tour.[citation needed] As All Black coach Alex Wylie later remarked:

There's always Campo, and when you've got a player like that in your team you always know probably something is going to happen. He did it again – he just pulled that one out. An individual like that: one day he could probably blow it, but the other four days he could make it. It was just unfortunate he made it against us.

In awe of Campese's efforts as a wing to have such a tremendous a decisive impact on a match, former Irish five-eighth Tony Ward would go on to exclaim:

"He is the Maradonna, the Pelé of international Rugby all rolled into one. You cannot put a value on his importance to our game. He is a breath of fresh air and I think perhaps the greatest player of all time."[attribution needed]

British rugby writer Stephen Jones would later add: "If I had to put together the greatest rugby match I've ever seen I'd have the first half of Australia versus New Zealand in '91 in Dublin…" At this point Campese was as much a house-hold name as anybody in Australia. However, he had one more match to go.

In the run-up to the final against England, Campese led a host of people criticising England's style of ten-man rugby stating: "I wouldn't play for England even if you paid me."[attribution needed] After watching England beat Scotland in a tryless semi-final, he added: "Playing that sort of boring stuff is a good way to destroy the image of the game. They all so scared of losing over here they won't try anything." Campese would go on saying if he played for England, he would insist on the five eighth position, since this would at least ensure him a touch of the ball. As rugby writer Stephen Jones remarked: "It was good quotable stuff", and Campese's comments were well publicised. Many felt, as a result of these wind-ups, England changed their style of game and ran the ball more, negating the perceived advantage England had in their forwards.

Australia would go on to win the final 12–6, and Campese cheekily added afterwards: "You know, if England actually played ten-man rugby, they probably would've beaten us."

English revenge for the 1991 Rugby World Cup was to come in the next World Cup when they beat the Wallabies in a nail-biting quarter-final. After the match, Campo somehow found himself on the same bus as all the English and endured quite some ribbing.

He was in fine form for the highly competitive 1992 Bledisloe series and was voted world player of the year as well. Later in his career, his blistering pace declined but he still remained able to unlock the tightest of defences with clever passing and well-angled runs. Competition from younger players eventually made his place less secure but he still contributed when selected. His final match was against the Barbarians at Twickenham in 1996 in which he scored after sliding through a tight defence in a manner which evoked memories of his early career.[citation needed]

Throughout his career he was to be known for his forthright views and the running commentary of chairman Campese was never for the faint of heart. The English were a particular target for his vitriol as a lambasted them for their boring and unadventurous play, however he was not afraid to also speak out against Australians, for instance when some elected to play for their states rather than represent Australia in the Hong Kong Sevens.

In retirement, Campese remains a fierce critic of England, maintaining his criticism even after England were crowned world champions in 2003. However, he was a good enough sport to accept the merciless heckling from the English media in the aftermath of England's victory with good grace, and walked humiliatingly the length of Oxford Street wearing a sandwich board on which was the English flag overlaid with the words "I admit, the best team won!" to make good on a somewhat rash promise he'd made before the tournament. His nickname was "Too Easy (Campese)". The phrase 'Easy Campese' has passed into the vernacular in Australia, meaning something like no worries.[citation needed]


In 2007 he was honoured in the third set of inductees into the Australian Rugby Union Hall of Fame.

Off the field, Campese was regarded as the first professional when rugby union was strictly an amateur sport and when he declared himself "rugby's first millionaire", it was controversial at the time. Professionals were often banned from playing in the early part of his career and players not allowed to profit in anyway from their image as players. Campese played a part in changing this but he also brought professionalism to the game in the manner in which he felt teams should prepare for games, most noticeably when he played at Milan. These attitudes are now normal in many clubs, not just elite ones. This cannot solely be contributed to him but he was early in advancing these ideas.

He also dramatically altered the style of play expected of wingers. Before him, wingers were often just the quick men who caught passes and then sprinted for the line. They were expected to stay on their wings and wait for the ball to come their way, the English were special targets for his criticism here. Campese, rejecting that thought, scored many tries from all kinds of positions where defences were not expecting a winger to appear from. Modern wingers are now all expected to have a higher work rate and are more complete players who have a fuller range of skills than the speed merchants of before.

He is best remembered by many as from being part of an era when it was acceptable to try things and take risks. With highly structured game plans and so much at stake in the modern game, this is not common anymore. It is ironic as he was the highest profile of the Australian players who won the 1991 World Cup. The upsurge in interest in Australia in rugby union can also be attributed to him in a large part and therefore perhaps helped create the professionalism which does not favour the style he liked to play.

Campese is now recording a TV show which is featured at www.11thcommandment.tv.

David Campese donated his handprints to endangered species and world peace causes with Davson's Artists for Life charity in 1993.



  • Campese, David - On a wing and a prayer
  • Derriman, Phillip - The rise & rise of Australian rugby — written by Phillip Derriman.
  • Ella, Mark and Smith, Terry - Path to Victory: Wallaby Power in the 1980s
  • FitzSimons, Peter - Nick Farr-Jones — the Authorised Biography
  • Jenkins, Peter Wallaby Gold
  • Webster, Jim - Simon Poidevin: For Love Not Money



  • David Campese — Ironbark Legends.
  • Rugby's my Life — Video Documentary Of David Campese's rugby career.

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