The latest instalment of Commentary Box Sports’ Sounding the Siren series features renowned hard-man and NRL great Kevin Campion, whose remarkable career spanned 12 seasons and 241 games with six clubs, across three states and two countries. The tough, determined back-rower represented Queensland in four State or Origin matches, while he featured in four grand finals with three different clubs and picked up two winner’s rings. Campion is still regarded among the Warriors’ greatest-ever players, and holds a significant place in the folklore of both the Broncos and Cowboys. He sat down with our Editor-in-Chief, WILL EVANS, to recount his rugby league journey.
Dyed in the maroon wool
Born in Sarina, near Mackay in North Queensland, in 1971, Kevin Campion is from one of Australian rugby league’s true heartlands.
Campion came through the ranks of the Sarina Crocodiles – the same club that produced long-serving Queensland and Australia stars Dale Shearer, Martin Bella and Wendell Sailor, and the pride of a town that punches well above its weight in terms of producing top-line talent.
Young Kevin’s rugby league education was also fostered on a steady diet of the BRL premiership and State of Origin football.
“It was all rugby league up in North Queensland,” Campion told Commentary Box Sports.
“I grew up watching the Brisbane league, we only ABC and Channel 6, and we used to watch the Saturday game from Brisbane – Wynnum Manly, Norths and Easts – it was a great time to be watching it, with players like Wally Lewis and Gene Miles and Colin Scott. They were my childhood heroes.
“Rugby league was in our blood up in North Queensland, there was a great history with Sarina in the Mackay competition.”
Like a generation of footballers from north of the border, Campion was inspired by the deeds of the Maroons’ in the inaugural Origin clash in 1980, carving out a 20-10 triumph over New South Wales that irrevocably changed the Australian rugby league landscape.
“When State of Origin kicked off we couldn’t wait for it to happen,” Campion recalled.
“We didn’t really know what was going to happen on that first night but you watch that old footage of Arthur Beetson running out onto Lang Park and Queensland getting away with a convincing win, it was just unbelievable.
“Unbelievable for the state and rugby league in general.”
Campion received his first taste of senior rugby league in the Mackay competition in the late-1980s while still a teenager, in a take-no-prisoners arena where crusty veterans thrive on exposing any deficits in mental or physical toughness in their greenhorn opponents.
“I debuted when I was 17 for the Sarina Crocodiles in the A-grade competition in Mackay and it wasn’t until 1991 that I made the Mackay side for the Foley Shield final up in Townsville.”
Campion’s representative debut was a charmed one, featuring in Mackay’s 30-22 win over Cairns – just their third win in the famed Foley Shield’s 43-year history, and their first since 1984. It wasn’t long before Sydney premiership clubs started sniffing around the rugged tyro.
Gold Coast calls
“From there I caught the eye of some scouts from Sydney, one being Western Suburbs (Magpies) who invited me down for a trial in Sydney after the ’91 (season), so I jumped in the bus and travelled 24 hours to Sydney for the trial,” Campion explained.
“I made the Under-21s side, so I came back to Sarina and I was packing my bags when I got a call from Butch McCall, who was friends with Grant Bell, the North Queensland development officer and had just picked up the Under-21s coaching job with (Gold Coast) Seagulls.
“I went down there for a couple of weeks to have a trial and, unbeknownst to me, Jamie Goddard was sitting in the office next to me. So ‘Belly’ paired us together and put us in a little unit not far from the club.
“We both trained our arses off over a six-week period and became really close mates – we are to this day – and we both got a contract with the Seagulls.”
The ill-fated Gold Coast club, which joined the premiership in 1988, stumbled from one disaster to the next on and off the field, culminating in three straight wooden spoons from 1991-93.
But the Seagulls weren’t lacking in big names – albeit ones that were in the twilight of their careers – which left a big impression on the 20-year-old.
“It was surreal – when we first rocked up to Seagulls, to tell you the truth, I hadn’t even really heard of them. I didn’t know they were in the NSW competition.
“I got to training and you’ve got players like Brent Todd, Steve Jackson, Peter Gill and Dale Shearer. Paul Martin, a grand final winner with Canberra, Clinton Mohr, a legend in the Brisbane competition who played with St George.
“Then to top it off you’ve got Wally Lewis as the coach. Jamie and I were pinching ourselves at our first training session.”
After plying his trade in the lower grades in 1992, Campion was the first debutant blooded by coach Lewis (who hung up his boots at the end of ’92) the following season, featuring in the second-row in a dour 5-4 loss to Illawarra at Seagulls Stadium.
“To make my debut in ’93 was something very special, we got beaten by a point but it was a special moment,” he said.
Gold Coast had one of the worst seasons endured by any team in the modern era, winning just one of their 22 games while Lewis butted heads with the Seagulls board and the club battled crippling financial problems.
But simply to be playing top-level rugby league made it an enjoyable time for the likes of Campion – who didn’t miss a game in ’93 after breaking through for his debut – and fellow rookies and future Origin players Goddard, Scott Sattler and Adrian Vowles.
Campion’s progress stalled somewhat over the next two seasons, despite scoring two tries and kicking a goal in the Seagulls’ famous 25-12 upset of the Brisbane Broncos early in 1994. He played just nine top-grade games (all but one off the bench) that year and 14 games in ’95 (mostly as a prop) under new coach John Harvey. Results improved marginally, offloading the spoon and winning a handful of games each season.
A quick scan through the Seagulls’ roster during those campaigns reveals what might have been, however, with ultra-talented juniors Ben Ikin and Stuart Kelly earning their first-grade spurs as teenagers in 1995.
“Some of my greatest memories are from the Gold Coast Seagulls.
“All of my great mates from that period of time are still my great mates today. It’s such a shame that it went the way it did for the club, because we had some amazing players come through the system.
“The likes of Jamie Goddard, Wayne Bartrim, Adrian Vowles, Scotty Sattler, Benny Ikin – we were all young guys coming through the development system, the 21s through to first grade, who went on to play for Queensland or Australia.
“It was just a shame they couldn’t get it right in the boardroom and it sort of reflected on the field. It was so disjointed up the top and it filtered down to how we played.
“Although we had some fantastic players we didn’t have a winning culture or someone to grab the club by the scruff of the neck and show us what being a team meant.”
Super League to the rescue for forgotten Seagulls
The Super League war ripped the game in half midway through 1995, and while scores of players were being feted by both the rebel organisation and the ARL establishment with massive sign-on offers and mouth-watering salaries, the no-names on the holiday strip were left with little option.
While the Seagulls remained loyal to the ARL, Campion was among a host of young battlers who gratefully accepted the windfall from the maligned Super League outfit.
“I had to. The ARL weren’t offering any money – I think they offered the whole of the Gold Coast Seagulls $500,000, and we knew certain players were getting that sort of money as a sign-on,” Campion revealed.
“It was a bit of a kick in the guts from our perspective, and Super League was a godsend to a lot of us, because I was on $30,000 but I had to play 20 games to get that.
“From my point of view, Super League was a great thing for the game and the players.”
But choosing the opposite camp to his club meant Campion needed a new home, which kicked off a hectic two-year period of to-ing and fro-ing marked by glorious highs and spirit-sapping lows.
“Every (Super League-aligned) player had preferences (for which club to join) – my first preference was North Queensland, I wanted to move back home. My second preference was the Broncos, which was a bit out of my league at that stage.
“A lot of players from the not well-known clubs like the Seagulls were farmed off to Adelaide or the Western Reds to make up numbers.
“We turned up in Adelaide for the ’96 pre-season in November, we trained right through to January-February, and Super League lost in the courts and we had to basically find a place to go.”
A Saintly diversion
The court injunction that prevented the Super League competition from going ahead in 1996 left dozens of players – in particular those at the new clubs Adelaide Rams and Hunter Mariners – in limbo. Many returned to their former teams, but Campion soon found a better option after a former Seagulls teammate teed up a career-altering lifeline.
“I went to the Gold Coast Chargers, as they (became) known, and spent a couple of weeks there.
“My great mate Adrian Brunker, who had signed with St George, had a word with David Waite, the coach, and said ‘if you’re going to sign anyone, sign ‘Campo’.
“‘Waitey’ gave me a call. I said, ‘I need to get out of this place, it hasn’t done anything for me for four years and I need a change.’
“It was the best move of my life.”
Campion made the most of his unexpected Sydney sea change. After snaring a spot on the Dragons’ bench in Round 6, he missed just one game in the team’s unlikely and inspiring charge to the 1996 grand final.
St George was written off after Waite came in as a late replacement as coach for Super League defector Rod ‘Rocket’ Reddy and star forward Gorden Tallis opted to sit out the season. But with bargain buys such as Campion – predominantly a second-row starter – propping up the squad, the Saints recovered from 13th on the ladder after 12 rounds to land seventh thanks to losing just one of their last 10 games.
“Our captain was Mark Coyne, we had Nathan Brown, Jason Stevens, Scott Gourley, David Barnhill. Then we had ‘Choc’ Mundine, one of the most amazing players I’ve played with, Wayne Bartrim was playing for Queensland and Australia at the time,” Campion gushed.
“It was just an amazing club. I wasn’t used to winning, and they had a culture of winning. They didn’t like losing, and it was a big change for me.”
After eliminating Canberra, Sydney City and North Sydney on an unforgettable September run, the Dragons found themselves in the grand final against dominant minor premiers Manly.
The Sea Eagles swept to a convincing 20-8 win to end the Saints’ fairytale.
“When you look back, it’s like anyone playing in their first grand final. You’re star-struck, you’re playing on the biggest stage, and you become a part of history,” Campion said.
“We had an amazing run to get to that grand final and Manly were a terrific side.
“They were world-class and they had the edge on us that day. We had our opportunities but it wasn’t to be. Looking back, what a fantastic experience – it wasn’t my best game, I always regretted that loss and the way I played, but I got to play in three more grand finals and I’ve got two rings to make up for it.”
Kevin Campion’s pen pic from the 1996 grand final program
When Super League got the green light for 1997, it was a bittersweet outcome for players like Campion, who had parlayed a difficult set of circumstances into a breakout season in the Red V.
Campion returned to Adelaide, where he ironically linked with coach Reddy in what would be a less than harmonious relationship.
“I tried everything to stay at St George, but I’d signed a contract with Super League and I had to fulfil my obligation.
“Which was unfortunate, because St George wanted me to stay there and I wanted to stay.”
The nuggetty forward made the best of the situation, however, earning a bench call-up during Queensland’s Super League Tri-Series campaign.
“It started my representative career and it introduced me to (coach) Wayne Bennett and some amazing players, who are still very good friends today.
“But more so Wayne, and now I’ve got a really solid relationship with Wayne – I can call him anytime. I don’t call him too often but I do call him a couple of times a year to see how he’s going, and I’m really fortunate to have him as a friend.”
Despite his newfound rep player status and the Rams’ lack of success, Campion found himself on the outer with Reddy. He wasn’t the only ‘name’ player to feel the selection axe during Reddy’s troubled 18-month tenure before he was replaced by Dean Lance midway through 1998, and Campion makes no bones about the former Test great’s attributes with the clipboard in hand.
“‘Rocket’ wasn’t a very good coach, and all the players down there would say the same. I had a clause in my contract that if I made a representative side I would be upgraded in my Super League contract.
“Obviously Wayne thought I was a good player, but Rocket didn’t think I was good enough to play for Queensland and he fought tooth-and-nail to stop me from getting that upgrade.
“He pretty much told me that if I stayed at the club that I’d be playing reserve grade the following year and I’d be on the market after that.”
Bennett’s sly move
For the third time in less than two years, Campion made lemonade out of the lemons he was handed, joining his fourth club in as many seasons in what proved to be his most beneficial career move yet.
But it required some savvy back-room tactics from the influential Bennett to seal the deal.
“I was lucky, I spoke to (Adelaide teammate) Brett Galea, he gave me Wayne’s number and I gave him a call. He devised a plan to get me out of Adelaide and up to the Broncos,” Campion explained.
“It was a longshot, but he knew what was going on in the rugby league circles. I did a player swap with Noel Goldthorpe, who was at the Hunter Mariners, and Wayne said the Mariners were going to fold so I’d sign with them, then after they folded (the Broncos would) pick me up.
“I didn’t even go to the Mariners – I left Adelaide with my wife and drove back up to the Gold Coast and that’s where we stayed.
“I spoke to (Mariners coach) Graham Murray and he said, ‘things are up in the air, just keep training and you’ll come down soon.’ It didn’t eventuate, they folded and in mid-January I started training with the Broncos.”
Despite being one of the least-heralded players in a Broncos squad bursting with internationals and Origin stars, Campion played all but one of the club’s 28 games as it surged to an emphatic triumph in the inaugural 1998 NRL premiership. He scored a vital first-half try in the 38-12 grand final demolition of Canterbury.
Campion’s toughness, durability and adaptability were valuable commodities off the bench – making 22 interchange appearances that year, plus a handful of back-row starts during the demanding rep period – while he cemented a permanent spot in the pack during Brisbane’s trying title defence in ’99.
Campion wore the No.13 jumper in the last 22 straight games of the Broncos’ campaign, which was ravaged by injuries and the shock retirement of skipper Allan Langer but included a stunning 11-match winning streak as they surged from the bottom of the ladder to scrape into the finals.
The seasoned Campion took on an even more integral role with the Broncos in 2000 following further big-name departures, and started at lock in 28 of their 29 games – including the dour 14-6 grand final defeat of Sydney Roosters.
“It was such a special time at the Broncos – two grand finals in three years, and I was part of the ’98 grand final, where we had some special players and probably one of the great sides of all time,” Campion said.
“To be in the run-on side in 2000 was amazing, it was a really emotional time because I knew I was leaving the club.
“But it was just great to go out with a win and share the special day with all my teammates.”
Warrington to Warriors
After playing 80 of a possible 82 games in three seasons at Red Hill, Campion left Australia’s shores at the end of 2000 – but instead of shifting his young family to England as planned, fate intervened to steer the 29-year-old to New Zealand.
Again Bennett proved the key facilitator.
“I’d signed over in Warrington – (former Broncos teammates) ‘Alfie’ (Langer) and Andrew Gee were playing over there, and Daryl van de Velde was the coach,” Campion revealed.
“But luckily for me I went over and played for Ireland in the 2000 World Cup, experienced the weather and what it was going to be like.
“It was cold – the worst weather in 400 years over in England – and my eldest boy, Austin, he was only a baby and was having issues with croup and asthma in Brisbane, where the weather wasn’t that bad.
“I rang my wife and said I didn’t think we should come over.
“I gave Wayne a call to see what he thought and he said, ‘I think the Warriors have changed management – I’d love to see you come back and possibly play Origin next year, I’ll put me feelers out to the Warriors.’
“Within 48 hours I’d signed a deal to go over to New Zealand.”
The Warriors had been a basket-case on and off the field since joining the premiership in 1995 and hit rock-bottom in 2000. Legendary former Kiwi Mark Graham was replaced as coach by ex-Parramatta lower-grade mentor Daniel Anderson and Eric Watson purchased what effectively became a new club.
But Campion, alongside the likes of fellow Australia-based recruits Richard Villasanti, Justin Morgan and Nathan Wood, plus Ivan Cleary, Mark Tookey and Jason Death (who all went to Auckland a year earlier), was at the forefront as the Warriors enjoyed a watershed ’01 season.
Campion co-captained the side with halfback talisman Stacey Jones in a year that included a maiden win over the Broncos and a debut finals appearance after finishing eighth, though Campion missed the latter through injury.
Jones skippered the side solo in 2002, but Campion’s leadership was no less influential as the Warriors realised their unbridled potential and clinched a historic minor premiership before powering into the grand final – a 30-8 loss to the Roosters after they led 8-6 early in the second half.
Campion became just the fourth player in premiership history to feature in grand finals for three different clubs.
He still marvels at the freakish talent that Warriors side possessed, but contends that their commitment with the ball was just as important as their trademark attacking flair.
“You look back at that period, it was almost Bronco-esque. Such a similar team – probably more skilful – we had Stacey Jones like an Alfie Langer.
“We had Jerry Seuseu, like a Shane Webcke. We had PJ Marsh, who was just on fire. Then you look at our back-row – Awen Guttenbeil was such a tremendous player, skilful, and Ali Lauiti’iti, who was the world’s best second-rower at the time.
“Then you look at our backs – Clinton Toopi was the world’s best centre. It was a special time and we just had tremendous ability, but we also a had a tremendous toughness in that side – we could score points out of anything, but we could muscle up with the best of them.
“We built our winning culture on our defence. We were mentally tough.
“Coming to the Warriors, I could feel something special in the team. When I first got there it was the Warriors of old – we just had to control our talent and not expose it at every minute of the game.”
“Those years I had over there were the greatest times of my life, because I met so many genuine people.
“Stacey Jones was the most humble guy, who would talk to anyone in the street – poor or rich and famous. I’m lucky enough to say I’m friends with him.”
Campion is still revered by Warriors fans. If the topic of the type of players the underperforming club needs to recruit comes up, his is invariably one of the first names mentioned – despite playing just 44 games for the Warriors.
— Michael Johnstone (@michaeljnrl) August 1, 2017
That halcyon early-2000s era seems a lifetime ago after watching the Warriors’ excruciating six-season absence from the finals, and Campion believes the crux of the club’s current plight is down to one simple factor.
“The Warriors now, they lack trust. They lack trust in each other.
“We knew from every player what we were going to get each week
“Someone’s got to take that team and start building trust back in that side, where every player in the side knows their job and every player trusts the person doing that job.”
A post shared by Sir Peter Charles Leitch (@sirmadbutcher) on
Friends become foes
It’s more than a little unjust that arguably the most iconic moment of Campion’s career was as a result of a skirmish with an old mate.
In the Warriors’ brutal 18-4 victory over Brisbane 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,” Campion chuckled.
— 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.
He laughs off his enforcer standing, however, saying his pugilistic prowess was greatly exaggerated.
“Yeah, that’s funny isn’t it? It was just a lucky punch that day.”
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
After Queensland copped a 3-0 belting in the 2000 series, Bennett took over from Mark Murray as coach, and his premonition came true when Campion was selected as one of 10 debutants in the Maroons’ squad for the 2001 series opener – becoming the Warriors’ first-ever Origin player in the process.
“It was a special moment getting chosen for Queensland and I really felt like I deserved my position in the team,” Campion said.
“The stint at the Warriors didn’t start too well, but I got to learn what the players were about – you’ve got to learn what makes players tick – so it took me a while to (adjust) playing-wise.
“But to get selected for Queensland from the Warriors is really special, and to be the first from the Warriors is even more special.”
Campion was named at lock but started at hooker in a late change (with Cowboys rake John Doyle reverting to the bench) as the no-name Maroons scored a spectacular 34-16 victory over NSW at Suncorp Stadium.
He again started at dummy-half in game two while wearing the No.13 and toiled for 38 tackles in a 26-8 loss in Sydney in game two, but he came off the bench in the euphoric 40-14 result in the decider, making a line break and popping two offloads among six typically determined runs.
The game-breaking brilliance of captains Gorden Tallis and Darren Lockyer, plus the stunning recall of Langer, were pivotal to Queensland’s momentous series victory. But Campion saves the lion’s share of the praise for mastermind Bennett.
“The success from the previous year with the Broncos – and there was a lot of Broncos in that Queensland team – that sort of flowed on.
“Gorden Tallis, such an inspirational captain, and Wayne as the coach. Queensland needed a change at the time and Wayne was the perfect foil to get them back on track.
“One great aspect of Wayne’s coaching is that he demands respect from his players, and the players want to win for him. There’s three reasons to win a premiership – you want to win for yourself and the team, but you also want to win for the coach.
“In my three years at the Broncos I never wanted to let Wayne down, and he just had that aura to make you a better person and a better player.”
Campion retained his Origin spot for the 2002 series opener, but he was again pitched into the unfamiliar hooker role – a position he had never filled at first-grade level – despite being picked at lock, with Doyle again moving back to the interchange.
Campion and Doyle were among four players dropped after Queensland slumped to a 32-4 loss in Sydney; ironically Campion’s Warriors teammate PJ Marsh came into the side to debut at hooker in the next game.
“It’s one of the greatest regrets of my Origin career, playing hooker,” Campion lamented.
“I thought I was genuinely one of the best lock-forwards in the game at that stage, and Wayne put me at hooker, for whatever reason.
“I wasn’t comfortable there, but he threw me in there and I did a good enough job to get that (2001) win. But you’ve just got to take the good with the bad. I played four Origins, and three of them were at hooker.”
Home sweet home
The North Queensland Cowboys, another club that had struggled since entering the premiership in 1995, saw qualities in the veteran Campion that could help deliver a long-awaited finals appearance.
For Campion, a contract with the Cowboys in 2003 meant the realisation of a long-held ambition to return and play elite-level footy in his home region.
“I always wanted to go back and play there at some stage of my career, and the coaching staff I think saw what I brought to the Warriors and they wanted the same from me at North Queensland,” Campion said.
But what confronted him in Townsville needed more of an overhaul than the shortcomings that had held the Warriors back.
“They needed a culture change up there. They were a mediocre team, but they were rock-stars off the field. Not too many wins, but even after a loss they’d go out on the drink and prance around town and thought they were superstars.
“That’s what happens in a small environment like Townsville. Things really changed dramatically up there. It took a year to get the culture right, and in 2004 things started to turn around mentally and culturally for the team.”
Campion played all 24 games – including 10 as fill-in captain – and became a fixture in the second-row in 2003 as the Cowboys improved to 11th in coach Graham Murray’s first full season in charge.
The 32-year-old warhorse was a vital cog the following season, but it was tinged with sadness for the retiring Campion with injury restricting him to 15 games as the Cowboys finally secured a cherished top-eight berth. He watched from the sideline as the Cowboys made a memorable charge from seventh to the preliminary final.
“I tore my bicep and it put me out for 10 weeks. It was fantastic what they did for me, I trained for the 10 weeks and they gave me a final farewell in last game, and we won the game against Cronulla (in Round 26).
“But I didn’t take part in the finals series, which was my call. After that last game my bicep wouldn’t have held up for the finals – it’s a different game, different speed, different mentality. I said to the coach I wasn’t up to it; I knew I couldn’t keep up at that level.
“The plan was always to retire. The two years playing under (renowned trainer) Billy Johnstone up in Townsville was fantastic, but it took its toll. It’s draining, and you can’t just keep training like that as a 33-year-old.”
Campion’s rugby league nous, combined with the esteem he was held in at the Warriors, saw him immediately drafted into the coaching ranks after he hung up the boots.
“The Warriors approached me to take up the defensive role on their coaching team. Myself and Ivan Cleary (joined) – it was a fantastic opportunity,” he said.
“I had a business on the Gold Coast that was going pretty well. I was disappointed at how it ended at the Warriors – I was promised something when I originally signed there for the 2005 season but things changed when Ivan was appointed coach.
“I just felt that, while it was fantastic for Ivan, it wasn’t what was promised to me and I thought I deserved a bit better so I basically said, ‘I’m out of here’.
The Anti Ice Campaign
Campion has kept himself busy out of the rugby league sphere since his last full-time gig in 2005, owning a Ray White real estate agency in Pottsville, northern NSW, for several years, and helping former international forward Mark Hohn set up his cleaning business in Gladstone.
Great to catch up with Lee Kernaghan last night at the CMC Country Music Awards. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Well done mate 👍🏻 pic.twitter.com/TYzhV5AsPT
— Kevin Campion (@KevinCampion121) March 23, 2017
What an amazing experience. The inaugural MOL trek to Kokoda PNG. Great bunch of blokes. A trip we’ll never forget. pic.twitter.com/2tMyCRTpqK
— Kevin Campion (@KevinCampion121) October 21, 2015
He dipped his toe back into the coaching ranks this year when he took on a role as an assistant to head coach Aaron Zimmerle at Tweed Heads Seagulls.
Campion has also thrown his weight behind an important cause in recent years, the Australian Anti Ice Campaign, which aims to tackle the scourge of the drug Ice (crystal methamphetamine).
“It’s an epidemic up in North Queensland, there’s a high suicide rate with young kids up there at the moment,” Campion said.
“Just in the football fraternity we’ve had six young kids take their own lives in the last two years, whether it be from depression or drug-taking – it’s something that’s really close to heart, being a local.
“I sort of fell upon the Anti Ice Campaign, I didn’t really know much about the drug. But it’s an awareness program that we run at schools, we have presenters that are ex-Ice addicts who have been through a two-year transformation period, from taking the drug to getting clean and being able to go out and share their stories to kids in schools.
— AAIC (@austantiice) November 23, 2017
“Basically I’m in a support role, we sit in the class with the kids and the presenters get up and tell their stories. We show them what’s in the drug Ice, how it affects lives – not only theirs, but their families and the people around them.
“And then I take them out on the field, we kick the ball around and have a general chat about reinforcing the message that drugs are not good for you, tell them stories about my career and how – like in most careers – there’s periods where you’re offered drugs and you either say yes or no.
“I was one of those guys that said ‘no’, I wasn’t a drug-user and never have been. I just reinforce the message – ‘not even once’.”
Find out more about the Australian Anti Ice Campaign HERE.