Campbell's legacy a life-changer

Ten per cent of the players and staff at the Gold Coast Titans are of Indigenous background, and it's a number that the club is proud of.

Twelve per cent of current NRL players are Indigenous, 18 per cent of the Jillaroos squad is Indigenous and 24 per cent of the Kangaroos team that easily accounted for the Kiwis last Friday night are Indigenous.

It is those types of numbers that allowed Preston Campbell to break free of three generations of welfare to forge his name in rugby league history and to now use that platform to allow others of Indigenous heritage to also extricate themselves from the vicious cycle he was very nearly caught up in himself.

More than simply celebrating the extraordinary talents that Indigenous people have brought to our game, Indigenous Round allows us to recognise the opportunities rugby league provides not simply to move on but to move forward.

"I'm third generation welfare so for me, rugby league has been able to give me an opportunity to break free of that cycle," said Campbell, who has designed the Indigenous Round jersey that the Titans will wear in both Round 10 and Round 11.

"We come from housing commissions, we come from an environment that doesn't really offer somebody like myself a lot.

"Rugby league is able to give us an opportunity where we can make something of ourselves and hopefully then realise that rugby league is a great platform to be able to help others, help others that come from a very similar background to what we do.

"When you look at all the other things in society, the representation is not always positive but this is a positive representation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Ten per cent, that's massive.

"You look at how many are in the Queensland team and the Australian team, there's a high representation and it's very positive.

"I know for some 10 per cent might not seem much but when you come from somewhere that these guys do, when you look at 10 per cent that's a big achievement. It's massive."

"He's loved by everyone because he is just so passionate about the game and passionate about the people. That's what makes him such a legend."

Justin Hodges on Preston Campbell.

Since calling time on a rugby league career that spanned 14 years, 267 games, a premiership with Penrith in 2002 and a Dally M Medal in 2001, Campbell has thrown himself into community work – first with Titans 4 Tomorrow and more recently with the establishment of the Preston Campbell Foundation.

He has become one of the most admired and beloved figures in the game and someone both current and former players view as a role model of the highest order.

"He's at the forefront of it all," said former Broncos, Queensland and Australian representative Justin Hodges. 

"He's a guy who is a very proud Indigenous man, he fought for the All Stars concept and he is proof that it doesn't matter what size you are there's nothing you can't achieve.

"He had a great career in rugby league winning grand finals, winning Dally Ms, and it just goes to show that a kid with a dream from Tingha can come out and achieve anything.

"He's got a massive heart, 'Presto', and he'll sit down and talk to anyone. Even if you're rude to him he'll sit down and have a conversation with you.

"He's loved by everyone because he is just so passionate about the game and passionate about the people. That's what makes him such a legend."

Adds Titans captain Ryan James: "To change someone's life is hard to describe but you watch someone like Presto who has changed so many lives...

"He's such a small bloke but has such a big impact on the game. He deserves some sort of medal. He's changed that many lives it's unbelievable."

In order to change the lives of many Campbell first had to change the direction of his own and while he cried himself to sleep for the first seven months he was away from family in order to chase his rugby league dream, he knows his perseverance can now give hope to others who may not previously have believed there was any.

"We look at success differently to a lot of people," Campbell says of his foundation that among other things offers a six-week training program and employment opportunities through Presto's Training Cafe based at Dreamworld.

"Success for me is somebody being able to get off the couch and come and get outside their comfort zone.

"We work with people that come from an environment where all they know is putting your hand out. And it's not something to be sorry about, it's about educating them.

"I tell my story and many people tell the story about their beginnings and more often than not it's very similar to what they're going through right now.

"They find courage in it, they find strength in the fact that somebody has been able to achieve stuff and be successful, even though they come from a similar position.

"You just hope that the boys and the league see that it is a platform to be able to create change.

"I'll be honest, I didn't see it until maybe my fourth or fifth year in the competition. I met a guy by the name of David Peachey who showed me the value of community and that's where I started.

"It's up to us now to appropriately and respectfully say to these young ones that they've got a great opportunity and what they want to do is completely up to them."