Titans’ legend backs pocket rocket to shine
Dally M legend Preston Campbell believes there is still a place in the NRL for the small man as his pocket-rocket son Jayden makes his first appearance for the Gold Coast Titans.
Jayden Campbell will pull on a Titans jersey for the first time in Friday's trial match against the Burleigh Bears at Pizzey Park.
At 70kg, Jayden weighs 55kg less than Titans teammate Shannon Boyd but has vowed to give it his all in his attempt to carve out an NRL career.
Preston Campbell is an NRL legend, having amassed 267 first grade appearances and winning the 2001 Dally M Medal despite being one of the smallest players in history.
LIVE stream the 2020 NRL Preseason Trials with KAYO. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
Preston was the Gold Coast Titans' first signing and played 103 games for the club before retiring in 2011, when he weighed 74kg.
Jayden, 20, said he was inspired by his father's heroics and pledged to give it his all when he comes off the bench at fullback for the Titans.
"I just remember him being the smallest bloke on the field and always giving it his best crack," Jayden said.
"I always looked up to the old fella with the way he played. He didn't care about his size or the size of other blokes, he just played.
"I'm tall (179cm) compared to my old boy (167cm), but I'm still pretty short compared to the other guys I play against. The thing about me is that I will give it 100 per cent every time I play.
"It's about how you look at it. You can go out there and be scared and intimidated by the big blokes or you can go out there and play footy. That's what I like doing. I love the game. I just want to get out there and play.
"Even though it's a trial game it will be a proud moment to put on the same colours as the old fella did. The goal is to play NRL one day. Hopefully my time comes."
Jayden signed a three-year development contract with the Titans after captaining the Burleigh Bears Colts to within one game of a grand final last year.
He spent seven weeks training full-time with the Titans during the pre-season and joins the club once a week for sessions.
Jayden's highlights reel shows an instinctive player who glides across the field and uses his brain rather than brawn to beat the opposition.
Preston, 42, said his son was rugby league-obsessed, and hoped Jayden could realise his NRL dream.
"He's always loved rugby league, playing footy is all he's ever wanted to do," he said.
"But he could never compete with the big guys. He was always a bit upset because he got overlooked because of his size at times.
"He went through a lot as a younger person. He came to me and said 'Dad, why won't they give me a go? They tell me I'm too small'.
"I'm happy for him because I see how hard he works and how much he loves it - he loves it more than I did, and I love the game.
"It's going to be interesting to see where it goes. I can't guarantee he's going to make it but he's doing all the right things.
"I'm happy for him every time he plays. I don't know how I'm going to feel seeing him play for the Titans."
League players are bigger and more powerful than ever. Broncos forward Payne Haas is 20, yet stands at 194cm and tips the scales at 119kg.
Most NRL backline players are around 100kg, but Preston said the small man could still flourish.
"Definitely, maybe down the track rules will come into play, like less interchanges, to allow the smaller guys a bit more of a say in how the game is played," he said.
"We've got players now who have proven that. Kodi Nikorima (174cm, 83kg) is an amazing, skilful player. He is carrying the flag for small guys in the game.
"That tells me there is a place in the game. It's about whether they feel they can do the job.
"The Titans have been really good. They've been working on Jayden's development and him being able to manage his eating, rehabilitation and preparation for him to get to a place where his body can naturally put some weight on.
"I don't want to put too much pressure on him but I'm quietly excited."
TITANS' TRIAL TEAM
1. Jonus Pearson, 2. Dale Copley, 3. Kallum Watkins, 4. Brian Kelly, 5. Greg Leleisiuao, 6. Toby Sexton, 7. Tanah Boyd, 8. Jarrod Wallace, 9. Erin Clark, 10. Shannon Boyd, 11. Sam Stone, 12. Kea Pere, 13. Darius Farmer, 14. Jaimin Joliiffe, 15. Jerry Key, 16. Tristan Powell, 17. Jayden Campbell, 18. Treymain Spry, 19. Ioane Seiuli, 20. Alofi Khan-Pereira, 21. Jed Edwards