Clifford Norman Campbell
Cliff Campbell was another Sydney Grammar School player who would make his mark in Australian rugby. A fly-half, during his career, he had a milk run at Woy Woy, and would travel to Sydney three times a week to practice and play. He would play 51 first grade matches, 22 with Glebe-Balmain and 29 after the club changed its name to Drummoyne in 1930.
In John Mulford’s Men In Scarlet, there is a chapter entitled “The Best of the Reds XV”. This is excerpted from that book: “In 1941, we find ‘Old Balmainite’ writing to the editors of Rugby News. ‘In selecting the best fifteen of the club, now known as Drummoyne, I have chosen outstanding champions of the day, each having had experience in big-time football. Four were members of the famous First A.I.F Team, Billy Watson, Johnny Bond, Ray Elliott and Viv Dunn. This is my best team from our district: Fullback, F. McPhillips; three quarters, RL Raymond, LW Wogan, R Rankin, AC Wallace; five-eighth, C Campbell, halfback, H Vincent; front rows, W Watson, J Bond, W Cerutti; second-row, W Ives, V Dunn; back-rows, R Elliott, J Ford, J Tancred.’”
The Editor replied questioning the choice and said “Peter Buchanan and Syd Malcolm were greater players than Cliff Campbell and Harry Vincent,” and so on. The debate expanded, and old-timer Harry Grose placed Cliff Campbell on his second best Reds team, citing players to 1954.
What is certain, then, is that Campbell was an outstanding player to be even considered.
Cliff Campbell would play four games for NSW from 1932 to 1934, and two were against the touring teams. In the first match against the All Blacks, it appears as if he played in the centre. Howell, et al, reported that, just before half-time: “NSW enjoyed a prolonged period on attack before Campbell managed to find a gap and score, only for Ross to miss the difficult conversion.”
It was a tight game, New Zealand winning by 13 to 11. Campbell’s main claim to fame rests with being a member of the first team to tour South Africa in 1933. The five-eighths chosen were both from NSW, Ron Biilmann and Cliff Campbell, who was 24 years at the time, was 5 foot 9 inches and 162 pounds. It was a hectic schedule, covering 23 matches. Campbell was to play in only seven of these, against Western Transvaal (won 20-3),Griqualand West (lost 9-14), Rhodesia (won 31-0), Western Province (lost (9-13), North Eastern District (won 31-11), Orange Free State (won 9-8) and South Western Districts (won 21-14). Biilmann, on the other hand, played 15 of the games, and was in four of the five internationals. Campbell did not score a point on the tour. A confounding factor was the emergence of the players who could handle the five-eighth position, like Jack Steggall and Gordon Sturtridge.
So Cliff Campbell would not play in a Test in his career, only seven non-Test matches, all in South Africa. He did, however, play for NSW in the second game against the 1934 New Zealand team, as five-eighth to Syd Malcolm. It was a close game, NZ winning by only 16 to 13, but this would end the representative career of Drummoyne’s Cliff Campbell.