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.
‘Curran is not so much interested in Campese’s life… but with the aesthetics of his play, analysing it as you might a poem or mythology. The result - astute, imaginative and very accessible - is the kind of superior sports writing that comes along rarely. You don’t have to be a rugby fan to appreciate it.’
Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen, The Sydney Morning Herald
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‘A smart writer pursues one of Australia’s most elusive and enigmatic champions. The result is shrewd, measured, evocative, and, at times, transporting.’
Gideon Haigh, author of On Warne
‘David Campese could impact a rugby field like a shooting star in the night sky, and James Curran’s masterful account lifts us into that stratosphere … As a rugby entertainer and show stopper, Campese was simply the best. Finally, here is a book that does this one-off player justice.’
Gordon Bray, veteran sports commentator