Dr William (Bill) Campbell
Born Brisbane, 28 November 1961
Western Suburbs (Brisbane)
Colleges (Red p235)
Australia (26 Tests)
At 202cm and weighing in at 118 kilograms, William Campbell was an impressive athlete . Campbell represented Australian Universities, Queensland and Australia as a rugby player and was an outstanding high jumper as a school boy. This skills made Campbell an excellent lineout jumper and allowed him to make a major contribution to the Australian team and saw Peter Jenkins name Campbell as one of the top 100 Wallabies, in his book of the same name . Campbell played 26 Tests and was a dominant figure in the Australian pack. After juggling rugby, family and his career as a vascular surgeon for many years, Campbell ended his rugby career at 29 to further his medical studies.
Campbell attended Villa Nova College in his early school years and then moved to Gregory Terrace, where he progressed through age group rugby. As an under-14, Campbell won the silver medal for high jump at the Queensland age athletic championships. Despite his impressive physicality and lineout winning potential Campbell only managed to make the Second XV in his final year at Terrace . Despite this, the medical student and future doctor would go on to play 62 matches for Queensland and captain the side 30 times, winning and impressive 29 of those matches .
After Terrace, Campbell played a season with University under-19’s and with Colleges while he was studying at the University of Queensland before moving to Wests in 1982 . 1984 was a huge year for him as he made his debuts for both Queensland and Australia. Campbell toured the United Kingdom with Australian Universities in 1984 and on his return debuted for Queensland against Fiji at Ballymore with fellow Terrace boys Michael Cook and Mark McBain . Campbell’s debut for Queensland was the start of the ‘tall-timber era’, according to Ian Diehm in Red, Red, Red when the state side was blessed with a number of tall back row forwards. Campbell was a massive line-out tower with pace and talent . Following his impressive performances for Queensland, Campbell was selected to make his international debut against Fiji in Suva the same year as a member of the 1984 Grand Slam Wallaby touring side. The new Wallaby coach was Alan Jones who opened the season with the ‘KISS’ game plan – Keep It Simple Stupid . The Wallabies won the match 16 to 3.
Campbell then played in the Queensland ‘B’ side against the touring New Zealand side in 1984 under fellow Terrace boy and Captain Tony Shaw. Brisbane had received an unheard of dusting of snow overnight. At game time the temperature was only 12 degrees and a dedicated crowd of 6,000 braved the condition . Bill Campbell and Stephen Cutler proved a great line-out team but the Queenslanders were beaten 37 to 0 by the always powerful All Blacks.
Campbell was not selected to play in the Australian side again until 1986 when he was to play Italy at Ballymore. After his return to the Wallabies Campbell went on to play against France and Argentina for both Queensland and the Wallabies in the same season. The tour by Argentina was only the second visit to Australia by the Pumas since 1983 and once again the athletic and tall Campbell stamped his authority on the line-outs in all of these matches .
Alan Jones would take the Wallabies into the 1986 Bledisloe Cup series in New Zealand, shouting mantras during drills to inspire the players. The Wallabies won the first Test match 13 to 12 but were unhappy with their performance. The All Blacks won the second Test 13 to 12 and the stage was set for third Test and series decider at Dunedin on 23 August. Jones’s mantra for the third Test was ‘no penalties on Saturday, no penalties’ and at practice goal-kickers were told before each kick ‘this is for the Bledisloe Cup’ . The match was played at a frantic pace with Wallabies later stating they wanted to collapse from fatigue early in the match. The frenetic pace paid dividends. The Wallabies defeated the All Blacks 22 to 9, winning the series and the Bledisloe Cup on Kiwi soil for the first time since 1949 . Jones subsequently delivered the memorable line ‘bigger than Quo Vadis, greater than anything’ . The coach presented an inscribed photograph of Campbell, reaching for the ball in a line-out, thanking him for playing ‘such a big role in our Bledisloe Cup victory’ .
The one game tour of Fiji to Australia in 1987 was the beginning of the South Pacific Competition, a forerunner of the Super 6, 10, 12, and 14 serieses that came to form the basis of Southern Hemisphere Rugby. Campbell played for Queensland against Fiji at Ballymore in a 59 to 0 thrashing in the opening match of the series.
This year also saw the advent of the first ever Rugby Union World Cup to be j ointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand.Campbell was vice-captain of the Wallabies against South Korea, England, the USA, and Japan and the Wallabies won all their pool matches and progressed to the quarter finals against Ireland at Waratah Stadium on 7 June. The teaming of Campbell and Cutler once again achieved complete dominance at the line-outs and the pair were described as line-out gurus by Maxwell Howell . Disaster struck in the semi-final against France with Australia losing 30 to 24. Before a crowd of 17,768 the Wallabies started well with Campbell winning the first three line-outs, however, due to ligament damage he had to be replaced, negating the Wallabies’ important advantage at the restarts . Centre, Brett Papworth, also had to be replaced due to injury. Alan Jones felt the injuries played a huge part in the loss against France, saying “I don’t want to appear to be making excuses but it’s almost impossible to imagine how difficult it is losing two players like that’ .
In July of 1987, following the conclusion of the World Cup, the Wallabies would play New Zealand in an one off match for the Bledisloe Cup. Recovered from injury, once again Campbell would team with Cutler to dominate in the first half line-outs but the New Zealand forwards proved too strong in the second half and reclaimed the famed Cup . While this was not a nadir for Australian Rugby, the year which had began with such lofty expectations ended without the Wallabies achieving any of their major goals for year, and without the Bledisloe or World Cups to their credit.
Campbell would then head to Oxford to pursue post-graduate studies on a one-year Kobe Steel scholarship missing the 1988 domestic Test season . Whilst in England, Campbell would continue to play and win his Blue for Oxford University, playing for the Oxford XV under Captain Bill Calcraft, a fellow Wallaby . When Campbell returned he said ‘I was a big fat thing of 130 kilograms, I could hardly run but when I got to a ruck I demolished it . Campbell then lost the extra kilos, regained his fitness and impressed selectors sufficiently to make the Wallaby tour of the United Kingdom were he played one Test on the 1988 tour against England at Twickenham .
In 1989, the British Lions toured Australia and Campbell was selected as captain of the Queensland side and vice-captain of the Wallabies . The international against the Lions was Bill’s only loss as Queensland captain, with the home side going down in a close match 19 - 15. It was an extremely tough, violent and uncompromising encournter, with the Lions justifying the rucking of players as they interrupted the flow of the game by slowing down the ball . Bill believed the Lions were targeting a perceived weakness in the squad, saying:
What I found was they played the man. With the All Blacks, if you were in the way and they wanted to get to the ball, then they’d tread on you, but it was just a bit different. I think the Lions felt we were not as hard and so they saw that as a weakness; they knew that we were very skilled and went for where they thought they could make a difference.
Queensland Rugby’s promotional slogan for the 1989 Lions tour, “It’s gonna be a jungle out there” was right on the mark according to the experienced state captain. Campbell, on painkillers for a rib injury, was frequently king-hit from behind but still dominated Robert Norster in the middle of the line-out. Norster had decided to hit Campbell at any opportunity, possibly to even up the eight centimetre height difference . The Reds, however, lost to the Lions 19-15 . When asked after the match how many times he got thumped in the line-outs, Campbell replied, ‘Well how many line-outs were there?’ .
Campbell would play in all three Tests against the Lions. The Wallabies won the first Test scoring four tries to nil before a crowd of 39,433 at the Sydney Football Stadium. The combination of Cutler and Campbell again dominated the line-outs. The second Test at Ballymore exploded into violence with the Lions winning 19-12. The Australians were not happy with the tactics used by the Lions and prepared themselves for the final Test. The final Test was a promoter’s dream with the series tied at one all. Before a crowd of 39,401 the match was dominated by the British forwards excellence. Although winger David Campese was blamed for losing the match with a wayward pass, Coach Bob Dwyer believed it did not cost the Wallabies the match. Australia lost to the Lions 19 to 18 and the visitors took the series 2-1 .
In August, Campbell would play against the All Blacks at Eden Park in a one-off Bledisloe Cup match that ended in another defeat for the Wallabies. However, he would have more joy with the Reds winning against Western Samoa and France in 1990 . Campbell captained the Reds in the victory over Western Samoa in May with fellow Terrace Old Boys Michael Lynagh, Brendan Nasser and Mark McBain also included in the team . The Reds victory over France at Ballymore in June was the Reds first victory against a major touring side since defeating Scotland in 1982 . The French side could not match the line-out skills of Campbell, Rod McCall and Sam Scott-Young losing to the Wallabies 15 to 3.
The 1990 Bledisloe Cup would be a three Test series in New Zealand. With the All Blacks delivering a four try thrashing in the first Test the press reignited the phrase the ‘Woeful Wallabies’. Five sackings and two positional changes resulted in Campbell being recalled to play in the last two Tests against New Zealand . An improvement in the Wallaby performance in the second test was not enough with the Australians going down 27 to 17. However, the third Test in Wellington ended the All Blacks undefeated run of 50 matches with the Wallabies winning 22 to 9 . The victory would save the coaching career of Bob Dwyer and in the dressing room after the match it is believed that Campbell turned to Sam Scott-Young and uttered ‘What have we done?” . Campbell and other Queensland players did not feel Dwyer, the former New South Wales coach, appreciated them.
After sixty two matches for Queensland and 26 Tests for Australia, Dr William Campbell, the Wallabies vice-captain, retired in early 1991 to concentrate on his medical studies . Despite the lure of revenge he would not be a member of the 1991 Wallabies who would eventually hoist the William Web Ellis trophy for the first time following victory of England at Twickenham. Instead, Campbell sat his surgical primary the day after the Wallabies won the World Cup, determined to pass.
Upon his retirement, Campbell had made a massive contribution to the future of Queensland Rugby. Ian Diehm in Red, Red, Red said of Campbell, his ‘authoritative captaincy and great ball-winning ability had been a big factor in Queensland’s recovery . During the 1980s he had formed an impressive combination with the retirement of the proto-typical second row forward had ‘left a big hole to fill’ for both Queensland and Australian Rugby . A striking physical presence and a gifted athlete, Campbell was a major figure in the Australian pack.
Ian Gilbert, from the Age, believed Campbell ‘was one of the last of a generation of players to combine on-field achievement with a successful career away from the game’ . The amateur status of the game was to come under threat a few years after Campbell’s retirement and the advent of full time professionalism meant that diminishing numbers of players were forced to work outside of the game to support their Rugby careers. In 1999, Campbell moved to Victoria to work at the Alfred and Royal Melbourne hospitals as the visiting vascular surgeon. Campbell’s interest in rugby is following the career of his son Alexander and his son-in law, Wallaby Mark Chisholm.