New ball game for Taree soccer star

A new ball game: Ricky Campbell will make the switch from soccer with the Taree Wildcats to rugby with the Manning River Ratz this year.SINCE he first started kicking a soccer ball around when he was aged four, Ricky Campbell’s No 1 supporter was there to watch and encourage him.

Campbell’s mum, Debbie, was at just about every game he played through his junior days and into seniors, when he became an integral member of the Taree Wildcats Football Mid North Coast Premier League side.

In the past few years Campbell has scored something like 60 goals for the Wildcats and his mum was there to witness most of them.

He was a member of Taree’s premiership winning sides of 2009 and 2012. Season 2012 in particular was a stand out when Campbell was the most potent attacking weapon in the league.

But last year Campbell lost his mum – Debbie succumbing to cancer after a long fight. So for that reason he doesn’t want to play soccer, at least for this season.

“It would just be a bit weird playing without mum there watching,” he explained.

Campbell admits his mind wasn’t always on the job with the Wildcats in 2014 in what was personally a mixed year – the exhilaration of the birth of twin boys when Campbell and partner Shannin Wrigley became parents for the first time, contrasting to the devastating loss of his mother. He only scored about 10 goals for the Wildcats, well down on his tally from the previous campaigns.

So this season he’s decided to take on another sporting challenge. He’ll turn out for the Manning River Ratz in the Lower North Coast Rugby Union competition.

Campbell has never played rugby although he dabbled a bit in rugby league while at school.

“It’s going to be a change – but I think I need that,” he said.

“I didn’t want to play another season of soccer and end up hating it. Who knows? Halfway through the year I might go back to soccer, but at this stage I’m keen to test myself in rugby and see how I go.”

Campbell has good mates who play for the Ratz and he said that’s made the transition a bit easier. He told Taree Wildcats coach Ben Sedlen of his plans and he said Sedlen was fully understanding.

“Ben and I have been mates for a long time,” he said.

“He wished me all the best.”

Campbell was at Tuncurry last year to see the Ratz lose the grand final to Forster-Tuncurry while he said he’s watched a lot of rugby on television. But he knows it is a complex game.

“I’m not going to learn all the rules from TV, but I have a bit of an idea,” he said.

Campbell fully realises that getting caught on the bottom of a ruck or maul or being crash tackled or hit high will be totally different to what he’s experienced in soccer. But he’s prepared for the bumps and bruises.

Training at this stage hasn’t been much different to what he’s used to in soccer.

“It’s mainly fitness but I guess that’ll change as the season gets closer,” he said.

Campbell played centre or on the wing in his brief flirtation with schoolboy league and expects that’s where he’ll be required in rugby. He’s also been practicing his goal kicking and he could the answer to a problem area that plagued the Ratz last season.

He has some rugby in his DNA, as his dad, Paul, played in the forwards for many seasons with the now defunct Taree Bulldogs.

The Ratz will play trial games before the start of the season-proper. Campbell expects he’ll be ‘pretty nervous’ before his first run.

He says he has no idea how long he’ll stay with the new code.

“I’m only 23 so I can still go back to soccer whenever I?want, that’s one of the reasons I’m playing rugby,” he said.

“But if I enjoy rugby, I might stay there.

“It’s a challenge, but I’m looking forward to it.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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