Ahead of Saturday’s showdown between the Warriors and Broncos, Flashback Friday marks 15 years since one of the rivalry’s most memorable moments.
The rebranded New Zealand Warriors rapidly developed into an NRL force in the early-2000s after years of underwhelming performance, accentuating their rise to prominence by beating perennial heavyweights Brisbane for the first time in 2001.
The clubs staged a string of explosive duels thereafter, with the Warriors regularly coming out on top – in the fight and on the scoreboard.
At the forefront of the Warriors’ revival was journeyman forward Kevin Campion, who arrived in Auckland in ’01 after winning two NRL premierships in three seasons with the Broncos. He became the Warriors’ first-ever State of Origin rep when he debuted for Queensland in his first season after the shift.
Back in club-land, the versatile hard-man showed little regard for the welfare of even his closest and most revered former Broncos teammates and Maroons allies.
In a brutal 18-4 victory at Mt Smart Stadium late in the 2002 season, Campion landed a series of right hands to the generous noggin of the game’s No.1 prop Shane Webcke, leaving the renowned tough guy bloodied and dazed.
Campion says that while there’s no hard feelings, Webcke certainly hasn’t forgotten about the incident.
”‘Webby’s’ a funny character, he’s still really dirty on me that I put him on his backside,” he told Commentary Box Sports.
— Weekend King League (@WeekndKngLeague) March 18, 2013
“He always blames (Warriors hooker) PJ Marsh for holding him back – but I reckon he was holding him up!”
“We have a bit of a laugh about it. He’s got a bit of an ego, ‘Webby’, so he doesn’t like having that ego tarnished.”
— Matt Bungard (@TheMattBungard) February 17, 2017
The well-travelled Campion, who was famous for spilling gallons of his own claret throughout a 241-game career, picked up a reputation as a player not to be messed with after flooring Webcke. He regularly polled highly in the ‘Which Player Would You Not Want To Pick A Fight With?’ category in subsequent Rugby League Week Players’ Polls.
The 45-year-old laughed off his enforcer standing, saying his pugilistic prowess was greatly exaggerated.
“Yeah, that’s funny isn’t it? It was just a lucky punch that day.”
The Warriors went on to claim the minor premiership but stumbled in their maiden grand final, going down to Sydney Roosters 30-8 in the big one. Campion left to finish his career with the Cowboys, but returned to Auckland for a season on the Warriors’ coaching staff in 2005.
‘Ah, the good old days,’ I hear most of you wistfully sigh. Incredibly, Webcke was penalised after copping the barrage, pinged for starting the bust-up in the first place. Campion escaped censure from the judiciary.
— scott hunt (@IamNotJonahHill) April 3, 2016
Keep yours peeled for the upcoming ‘Sounding the Siren’ feature on Kevin Campion.