Why Campo wants the shirt on your back

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Drawn into a shop in the shadow of Sydney's Harbour Bridge last Sunday lunch-time by the display of Wallaby rugby jerseys in the window, it came as a shock to behold the gentleman busily serving customers behind the counter.

Drawn into a shop in the shadow of Sydney's Harbour Bridge last Sunday lunch-time by the display of Wallaby rugby jerseys in the window, it came as a shock to behold the gentleman busily serving customers behind the counter.

Stu Wilson, the great All Black wing-threequarter, felt similarly stunned when he first beheld David Campese - the 19-year-old debutant Wallaby waltzed around him to score from a seemingly impossible position with his first touch in international rugby. Eighteen years, 101 Tests, 64 tries, one World Cup and one legendary sporting career later, the retired Campese spends his time selling relatively sensible rugby shirts rather than outrageous goose-stepping dummies.

True to his idiosyncratic style, he does it up front - as a hands-on folder and fitter of the garments on sale at "David Campese", as the modest-sized sign hung high above the entrance discreetly identifies his George Street establishment. He scoops chocolate-chip ice-cream too - and froths up "Campo-ccinos" for the lingering clientele. It is difficult to imagine quite the same level of personal service 10 years hence at David Beckham Sports - or Wes Brown Sports, for that matter.

"That's the kind of guy I am, I suppose," Campese said in mockseriousness. "No, really, it's good fun. The last couple of weeks, while the Olympics have been on, I've met a lot of people, a lot of interesting people. I had a guy in called Dick Butkus, who's in the NFL Hall of Fame and who was on one of themotivational tapes we watched when I was in the Australian team in the early Eighties. Prince Albert of Monaco's been in too."

The princely Campese did allow himself the odd night off to watch some of the latter-day sporting stars at first hand in his home town. He was inside Stadium Australia the night Cathy Freeman struck gold, though the unforgettable women's 400m final did not stand out as the highlight of the two-week Sydney Olympic show for the outstanding Wallaby wing of old.

"Australia won 16 gold medals, so it's difficult to pick out just one," he said. "Watching Ian Thorpe or Grant Hackett maybe. Cathy Freeman's was a good effort, yeah, because there was a lot of pressure on her. But there are other people who have worked just as bloody hard. And I suppose the hardest hit was the poor walker, Jane Saville. She did 19.5km of the 20km course and she was out, disqualified.

"That's why it annoys me when people say her event shouldn't be in the Olympics. She worked for four years to get into that position and she was destroyed. Yet Pat Cash and these tennis players lose and they just go, 'Oh, all right', because they can go off and win a million bucks in some tournament somewhere the next week. It's not the same. That walker has more right to be in the Olympics than any tennis player."

Moran's moral

There was a time when David Campese's sport was in the Olympics. Indeed, at Circular Quay, a John Eales conversion from Campo's shop, the original Wallabies set off on the tour in which they became Olympic champions almost by default.

The world's leading nationshaving declined to enter teams, the first touring Australian team found themselves playing Cornwall, chosen to represent Great Britainbecause of their English champion county status, for the 1908 Olympic title.

On a makeshift pitch next to the open-air Olympic swimming pool at Shepherd's Bush, they won 32-3 - under the captaincy of Herbert Moran, who gained considerable fame in later life as an eminent physician and author.

It was Moran who objected to the aboriginal war dance the original Wallabies were forced to perform by the Australian rugby authorities, who wanted a rival ritual to the haka popularised by the All Black originals in 1905. The good Dr Moran considered the treatment of Australia's indigenous population such a disgrace he successfully fought for the abolition of what he called "a wretched caricature of a native corroboree" from future Wallaby tours.

He had one other notable success on that historic trip. Concerned that his players would catch venereal disease, on the first few weeks on board the SS Omrah Dr Moran made them attend daily lectures about the ailment, showing them graphic pictures of gravely afflicted private parts. He warned that any player who contracted the disease would be sent home in disgrace. None were.

"I count this as a real achievement for both them and for me," he observed in his forthright autobiography, Viewless Winds.

Pitch battle

Daniel Carroll returned from that original Wallaby tour with a clean bill of health and an Olympic gold medal. He won another rugby gold at the 1920 Games, as a flying winger and coach of the American team who beat France 8-0 in the final in Antwerp, and then guided the United States to victory in the 1924 final in Paris. The United States have reigned as Olympic rugby champions ever since - because of the riot provoked by their 17-3 success against the French at Stade Colombes.

An ill-tempered affair was guaranteed from the moment the Americans had to fight with gendarmes to get through to the customs area in Boulogne because their visas had not been forwarded by the French Olympic Committee. They were booed, hissed and spat at by Parisians, and two Americans sitting in the main stand were beaten unconscious as Carroll and his players were escorted from the field under police protection.

The playing of "The Star Spangled Banner" was drowned out by jeers at the victory ceremony and the playing of rugby at the Olympics duly sank without trace.

Comments