Titans’ stalwart Preston Campbell almost didn’t play rugby league because he was “too small” … but 249 games later he has grown in stature to stand tall among illustrious company as the fifth most capped named to play in Round two this weekend.
Of the more than 200 players named yesterday for this weekend’s Telstra Premiership round, only Broncos captain Darren Lockyer (334), Eels captain Nathan Hindmarsh (284), Panthers captain Petero Civoniceva (268) and Bulldogs captain Andrew Ryan (268) have played more games than Campbell.
In recent years the 33-year-old has become recognised as an elder statesman of the game and a cult hero for his people as the mastermind behind the inaugural NRL and Indigenous All Stars game last year. But he could just as easily be the pin-up boy for society in general.
The 167cm Titans dynamo ignored the doubters who said he was too small to play rugby league when he was a young boy and the ongoing doubts about his size and defensive ability early in his career, and has let his incredible talent do all the talking.
He has played 14 years at the top level in a distinguished career in which he has been awarded the Dally M Medal, won a premiership with Penrith and proudly represented his people as the inaugural captain of the Indigenous All Stars.
As Campbell runs out for his 250th NRL game this Saturday night when the Titans take on the Storm at Melbourne’s AAMI Park, all rugby league fans should salute him – because the man himself won’t make a fuss about it. He never does … he will just go quietly about his business.
Titans coach John Cartwright said it was a remarkable achievement for Campbell to join the 250 game club – the 67th player to do so in the NRL’s history.
“When you consider what a big deal it is for guys to make their debut, to play your 250th game at that level – especially for Presto as we all know he’s not the biggest guy in the world and there’s not many guys his size that actually play the game – so to play 250 of them is a huge achievement,’’ said Cartwright.
“He not only means a lot to the players but also to the football staff and the club staff in general. He’s only too willing to lend a hand with anything to do with the club.
“He’s a great role model for not only our players but anyone that plays the game.’’
In other team selection news for round two:
The Eels have made just one change for their clash with the Panthers at Parramatta Stadium with Paul Whatuira making his debut in the centres, coming in for the injured Chris Walker. Winger Luke Burt, who passed 1500 career points last weekend in a 16-point haul, is now just one try away from Brett Kenny’s club record of 110 tries.
The Panthers could add some extra spark to the blockbuster local derby, with rumours they could this week sign former Eels star Timana Tahu, who could be rushed into the centres to replace Michael Jennings. Jennings has been named but re-injured his hamstring in the club’s 42-8 loss to the Knights on Sunday.
Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin has named the same 17-man squad that lost their NRL season opener against North Queensland for their away clash with the Raiders at Canberra Stadium. Injured stars Justin Hodges and Ben Hannant will miss another week.
The Raiders have been forced to make some changes, with injury to skipper Alan Tongue (shoulder, 4-6weeks) and a one week suspension for prop Brett White (1 week).
Travis Waddell will replace Tongue from the bench with Glen Buttriss moving to the starting line-up, while White’s suspension allows Josh Miller to return, also on the bench. Matt Orford has been named at halfback ahead of last week’s debutant Sam Williams after recovering from an abductor strain, but Josh Dugan is set to miss another week with his calf injury.
As reported, Titans crowd favourite Preston Campbell will celebrate his 250th game against the Storm at Melbourne’s AAMI Park, while injury-prone Melbourne centre Chase Stanley has been crushed by news he requires a full knee reconstruction and will miss the rest of the NRL season.
The promising St George junior made just seven appearances in his first season for the Storm last year, and now he has been sidelined again following the injury he suffered during last Saturday's 18-6 first round victory over Manly. However, the Storm’s new recruit Beau Champion has received the green light to take his place in the centres against the Titans.
The Wests Tigers have called on Bryce Gibbs to replace lock Liam Fulton (shoulder, indefinite) for their clash with the Warriors at Leichardt Oval; while star NZ recruit Krisnan Inu will belatedly make his Warriors NRL debut in place of injured winger Manu Vatuvei (knee, 8 weeks).
Warriors coach Ivan Cleary has also called up young pivot Isaac John to replace the suspended James Maloney, who pleaded guilty to a dangerous contact charge for his hit on Parramatta fullback Jarryd Hayne last weekend.
The Knights have named captain Kurt Gidley (back spasms) for the clash with the Cowboys in Townsville, despite being one of three injury concerns after their emphatic victory over the Panthers on Sunday
Young fullback Shannon McDonnell is on standby for Gidley; while Cameron Ciraldo will play his first game for the Knights in 2011 in place of key recruit Neville Costigan who underwent surgery on a broken arm late yesterday (up top 12 weeks).
Cowboys coach Neil Henry has named rookie Tariq Sims, 21, to make his NRL debut in the North Queensland pack alongside brother Ashton, 26.
The Bulldogs have been dealt a huge blow for their battle for “house rights” in their “home” game against the Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium with Josh Morris sidelined last night for 6-8 weeks with a torn posterior cruciate ligament. His replacement is yet to be named.
The Rabbitohs have been forced to make changes because of injuries – Eddy Pettybourne in second row to replace Sam Burgess (shoulder, 3-4 weeks); Dave Tyrell at lock, replacing Ben Lowe (broken foot) with Chris McQueen taking his spot on the bench. Michael Crocker moves on to interchange bench to replace Scott Geddes (ruptured Achilles tendon).
Meanwhile, the Sea Eagles’ forward pack has been ravaged for their clash with the Roosters at the Sydney Football Stadium, losing co-captains Jason King (suspension) and Jamie Lyon (hamstring), as well as second-rower Shane Rodney (shoulder).
The Roosters have named Todd Carney on an 18-man bench for what will be his debut match for 2011.
The Dragons have named an unchanged squad for their local derby against the Sharks at Toyota Stadium, in what will be St George Illawarra’s only game in Sydney until Round five. The Sharks will be without suspended hooker Paul Aiton (1 week).