In the 1980s and early 1990s, David Campese thrilled spectators both in Australia and overseas with his footloose, crazy-brave style of free running. This book tells the story of his rise from humble beginnings to the very top of a global sport.
As a rugby player, David Campese seemed to operate on cross-grained pure instinct, one that left many a defender clutching at him in vain, stranded in the slipstream of his audacity. Hailed as the ‘Bradman of rugby’ by former Wallaby coach Alan Jones, and the ‘Pele’ of rugby by others, Campese was a match-winner.
The refrain ‘I saw Campese play’ now speaks to much more than wistful reminiscences about a player widely regarded as the most entertaining ever to play the game of Rugby Union. It has come to represent a state of chronic disbelief that the Wallaby ascendancy of Campese’s era has been seemingly squandered.
Campese occupies a unique intersection in rugby’s history: one of its last amateurs, and one of its first professionals. He had shown, too, that coming from outside the traditional bastions of rugby — the private schools and universities — was no barrier to reaching the top. Indeed, he challenged that establishment and unsettled it, warning in the early 1990s that the code risked ‘dying’ if more was not done to expand its appeal.
David Campese revolutionised how the game was played and appreciated. His genius, most visibly manifest in his outrageous goosestep, captured the national and sporting imagination. The rigid, robotic rugby of today appears incapable of accommodating a player of his dash and daring.