23/05/2024

Terry Campese continuing to play rugby league post NRL career. (Image: Canberra Raiders, Graphic Design Madeline Irwin)

Through the dark depths of injury, Terry Campese emerged as a shining beacon of resilience and determination.

In the realm of sports, where strength and endurance are tested on the grandest stages, there exists a profound narrative that goes beyond mere physical prowess.

Speaking to The Inner Sanctum, Campese explains how he found an unwavering light that guided him through crushing setbacks.

Campese was a rugby league player that the fans would say had so much potential.

Between 2008-10, he was on top of his game. Making it look easy by being named five-eighth of the year and being three points shy of winning the Dally M medal, while also playing for Australia and State of Origin just one time.

What seemed like a career heading in the right trajectory gets flipped upside down, as Campese injured his ACL for the first time.

It’s not that he tore his ACL, it took place during a must-win game for the Raiders in the semi-finals against the Wests Tigers.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Campese said. 

“I was out for nine months, I didn’t know what the rehab was going to be like.” 

Once a force to be reckoned with now becomes relegated to the sidelines, to the role of a mere spectator, always having a constant reminder of the battle wounds.

“If I rattle through all my injuries, we would be here for a while,” a defeated Campese stated.

For now, his role has shifted, now becoming a silent warrior, battling time and the limitations of his injuries.

He injured his ACL another three times before the end of 2014 when he eventually was released by the Canberra Raiders.

The ACL tear that would keep him on the sideline in 2012 was a dark path in recovery that would eventually have a light at the end of the tunnel.

“It played with my mind a little and my head a little bit,” Campese said.

“It was through that recovery period where I was in and out of feeling sorry for myself and depressed not being out on the football field,” Campese told The Inner Sanctum.

Yet, he still kept figuring it out and continued trusting the process of rehab again and again and again.

Campese found an escape from the drowning, terrifying thoughts of injury. 

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While helping himself get out of the deep end of injuries, he finds an angelic idea that could make a definite difference.

That was when the Terry Campese Foundation was born, which aims to provide opportunities for young people in the community.

“I knew how hard it was to get to that next level,” he said.

“From just simple goals from running to hopping, jumping, leaping, they all come at different stages through the recovery period.

“But so one thing I did to combat if I was feeling down was put a lot of time into my charity which we set up around that period, the foundation, so every spare minute, outside of football, I was focusing on what we could do in the community and community projects and trying to raise money so that definitely helped.

“I’ll put my health and well-being down to keep him busy off the field. So I didn’t really have too much time to feel sorry for myself and then obviously I had two small kids at the time. So every other minute was playing and enjoying them growing up.”

Experiences give knowledge, and an understanding of an aspect of life that they may never have seen or lived previously, which is why Terry insists on education on mental health to be a pathway that the NRL needs to explore to give players a space to speak up about their mental health and well-being.

“The more it is spoken about, the more important it becomes for people to reach out, especially for players going through injuries and issues around their form,” Campese said. 

Currently, the foundation is raising money for bringing a group of young people on the Kokoda Track.

“We’re taking 40 of us over to Dakota on July 3,” Campese told The Inner Sanctum.

“We do a mentor program, which is our main fundraiser, where we work with eight young people from four areas, which are Canberra, Queanbeyan, Braidwood and Goulburn, with two volunteer mentors in each area.

“We work with the kids for roughly 20 weeks, where we meet with them weekly and then work on a range of fitness activities from the gym to hiking and just building that relationship with the kids and having conversations trying to get them into work or whatever their goals are.”

Playing locally versus for a professional league like the NRL, Campese definitely feels the difference mentally between playing for the Raiders and playing for the Queanbeyan Blues.

Terry Campese playing for the Queanbeyan Blues. (Image: Queanbeyan Blues Rugby League)

The escape for Campese has always been rugby league. It’s also what has kept him trapped, but also a big passion of his for a long time and even to this day.

“It definitely takes your mind away from everything else that’s going on,” Campese said.

“There’s not too much time to think about anything outside of the game, so that’s why I love the physical side of it.”

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