Queensland Reds unsung fullback a mix of Darren Lockyer and Ben Smith says Thorn
Queensland Reds coach Brad Thorn won an NRL title with Darren Lockyer and a rugby World Cup with Ben Smith.
Usually reserved as coach in his praise for his Queensland Reds, he has managed to compare his unsung fullback to both luminaries in the surest sign yet that Campbell is ready for higher honours.
Thorn’s eye-raising remarks came after the Reds’ 23-5 defeat of the Melbourne Rebels on a wet Saturday night at Suncorp Stadium.
Poor skills made for tough viewing at times but a sharp, clean and direct Campbell, back in the No.15 after a groin injury slowed him in 2021, was a sight for sore eyes.
The 26-year-old beat the first man, took care of the high ball, kicked with confidence and finished with a deserved try when centre Josh Flook’s audacious cross-field kick to his flank came off.
Campbell told AAP last year that he considers Tom Banks, a former club teammate, to be the country’s premier fullback.
But the Brumbies star’s injury, just as he was warming to the task in the gold jersey, has ensured the door remains open ahead of the 2023 World Cup.
Though Campbell was overlooked, even as part of a 40-man squad by Australian coach Dave Rennie last year, Thorn took the chance to talk up his man.
“He’s got a big kick, defensively (solid), he moves so nicely, he’s got this movement like a (Darren) Lockyer-style step,” Thorn said while imitating the smooth moves of Campbell and the former Queensland rugby league great.
“He’s (Campbell) a banker, you feel good when he’s on the park.
“He could comfortably go up another level … but he’s like one of those guys you can pass over.
“Not as flashy; it’s like they don’t have bling or whatever, but they always seem to make the right decisions.”
Campbell played in his school’s third-grade side before plying his trade at the University of Queensland while studying, then getting his professional look-in via the now-defunct National Rugby Championship.
“He’s been chipping away … and, for me, the guy I think of is similar in style, is Ben Smith,” Thorn said.
“It took him a while … if you see him on the street you don’t go, ‘oh that looks like a Super Rugby player’.
“He played club, played for Otago and got little goes and by the end of his career he was one of the best fullbacks in the world.
“To see those guys come through that way is pretty cool; they’ve earned everything they get.”
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