NEW Hull KR captain Terry Campese could easily have followed in the footsteps of his famous Wallabies uncle but admits opting for rugby league instead was “probably the best decision” of his life so far.
David Campese, of course, is one of the most recognisable faces in union’s history, the prolific, entertaining and often brash Australian winger who starred as they won the 1991 World Cup and generally annoyed England along the way and ever since.
His nephew, who has moved to East Yorkshire on a one-year deal, recalled how he had the chance as a teenager to sign for the Brumbies in his home city Canberra.
“Growing up, I played both but predominantly union,” stand-off Campese told The Yorkshire Post.
“At 18, though, I had to make the decision whether it was league or union.
“I had a few options but I was loving league so much at the time that’s what I went with. It was probably the best decision I’ve ever made.
“I’ve enjoyed my career so far, had a few really good moments and now I want to have some more with Rovers.
“My uncle wasn’t bothered. He’s always been a big believer in doing what you love and being happy. I was actually just texting him today to see how he’s going. He’s in South Africa now doing some coaching work.
“As a kid, he was not just my uncle but an inspiration, too. We used to travel to Sydney a fair bit to watch him play for New South Wales and Australia and he obviously made the family really proud.
“I had a bit of pace myself like him when I was younger but that’s got lost somewhere over the years. I earned rep’ honours as a winger but started filling out when I was about 16.”
Now aged 30, Campese is seeking to have a significant impact for Hull KR in Super League.
He had spent his whole career with Canberra Raiders, featuring for New South Wales State of Origin once and earning a solitary cap for Australia against Papua New Guinea during the 2008 World Cup, though that was cruelly ended by a serious eye injury.
However, Hull KR head coach Chris Chester hopes his organisational quality and, in particular, impressive kicking game will help offset the loss of fellow Australian Travis Burns to St Helens in 2015.
With another NRL product Kris Keating released following a difficult 12 months with Rovers, Campese will form a new-look half-back pairing at KC Lightstream Stadium, probably with Albert Kelly, who has joined from Gold Coast Titans.
Their opening Super League game is against Leeds Rhinos on February 8 but he is likely to debut in a ‘friendly’ at Hull FC on Sunday.
“Not just the lads but the whole city have been telling me about what this game means and how competitive it will be,” he said, having been announced as captain on Friday.
“It’ll be good to see just how passionate the crowd is.
“I’ve settled in well and everyone is really welcoming here. In fact, Hull reminds me of Canberra with how close everyone is.
“It’s a great honour to be named skipper, too, of a club with such a lot of history.
“I just want to get out and play some good football, earn the respect of the boys out on the pitch and show what I can do.
“I’d captained Canberra for the last three years and it is a role I enjoy.”
Campese’s form tailed off towards the end of last season and he was dropped to Canberra’s reserve grade but he is confident of recapturing his best.
“I don’t want to be over here being standard,” he added, with Rovers fans hoping he can have the same impact as his former Canberra team-mate Michael Dobson, the scrum-half who earned legendary status at Craven Park.
“I want to be playing the best football I possibly can; hopefully all my years experience in the NRL will pay off and I can hit the ground running.
“My body feels fit and refreshed and we have to be realistic; our goal has to be semi-finals (play-off) football.
“With the way the competition is structured now as well, we have to win as many games as we can as soon as possible.”
Having only signed for 12 months, Campese realises he is playing for a new contract, too, but there is every suggestion the rangy half-back is just what they need in this most crucial of campaigns.