Luke Campbell takes the ball up for Marist Brothers against Mullumbimby last Sunday.
Luke Campbell takes the ball up for Marist Brothers against Mullumbimby last Sunday.

No thanks, Luke tells the ?Tahs

By STEVE SPINKS

LOTE Tuqiri and Wendell Sailor have done it.

Matt Rogers has done it.

Even Milton Thaiday has done it.

So why couldn't Marist Brothers rugby league lock Luke Campbell do it?

Change football codes, that is.

Campbell, who will start at the back of the scrum for the Brethren in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League match against Grafton Ghosts at Crozier Field, Lismore, tomorrow, was close to giving away the 13-man game towards the end of last year.

"Anthony George, who is the media manager with the Wallabies, is an old Woodlawn boy and family friend, so he said to put together a video tape and send it down to the Waratahs," Campbell said.

"I did and when Ewen McKenzie (NSW coach) came to town last year he called at the last minute for me to go and meet him out at the airport."

The two chatted.

The outcome was that Campbell was invited to a junior trial match in November.

It turned out to be a NSW Under-19 trial, involving a host of players who went on to represent Australia in the Under-19 World Cup in South Africa this week.

Talk about being thrown in at the deep end.

Campbell's rugby union experience included a couple of school matches and three Under-19 games with Wollongbar.

"They had me playing in the centres and I was pretty happy with my performance considering I didn't play any good football last year because my foot was not right," the 21-year-old said.

"I was a bit lost most of the time because I didn't know where to defend ... I kept going back 10 metres."

But the Southern Cross Ten production editor didn't do too badly.

He did set up an 80-metre try with a neat chip-and-chase and run.

Campbell thought he may jag a NSW Academy training contract, but it was never offered.

"They (the Waratahs) were keen for me to come to Sydney and play for one of the clubs down there," he said.

"They would help to organise me to get down there, but they wouldn't sign me to anything until they saw how I went in first grade."

The youngster decided against risking his job and league prospects without a guarantee.

"I rang Ewen and said thank you for the opportunity," Campbell said.

But the 2003 Northern Star Group One rugby league Player of the Year has not dismissed the idea, even though this season is out.

Campbell's burning ambition is to put together some consistent football for Brothers.

After excelling in 2003, the hard-working lock was sidelined most of last season with a foot injury.

He made it back into first grade for the grand final, but struggled with fitness and confidence.

But Campbell's now back to full fitness.

And keen to play well ... whatever the code.

First grade kicks off at 2.45pm.



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