There are halls of fame, lists of immortals and legends of the game. 100% of the time it seems that its the players who have gone out on the field and slugged it out for 10 or 12 years that get the honours. And rightly they should, but, unlike the being on the front lines sometimes the hardest work is done behind them and its many of these people that should, but never get the recognition that they deserve. As history will see it down the line one of these people will clearly be Dane Campbell. Dane has almost single handedly been able to achieve something that many organisation in Rugby League have not, and that is actually get the greatest game being played in new countries. The Prophet of the Pacific hen should be called, though starting out in the Caribbean in Jamaica he now has helped to spread the game in Vanuatu and now has landed in the Solomon islands. Like a modern day Missionary he has started to show what Rugby League has to offer.
If you have missed it recently, on Facebook you could keep track of Danes latest exploits, and I have been able to have another chat with him to ask about the Solomon Islands Rugby League and also what the future plans are with developing countries in the sport. You will be surprised where he may end up and if history is anything to go by, this country could be huge for the sport.
This time around however it’s a bit different to when Dane was in Jamaica and Vanuatu. Where as Dane started from scratch in those countries, the Solomon Islands in the past have had some Rugby League played already. Wondering what drew Dane to the Solies, ”they actually have had a small rugby league presence in the past, yet have not been able to fully develop the game. There is already an Executive committee in place and my involvement with the Solomon Islands Rugby League Association is a nice fit, given the similarities the Solomon Islands share with Vanuatu. To answer your question, like Vanuatu, I was drawn to assisting the Solomon Islands given its proximity to Australia (my home base) and the fact that it has some incredible athletes to work with. It is also nicely placed geographically to major league playing nations in Australia and Papua New Guinea which makes gaining further information and resources to develop the sport a little more accessible”.
It has been well documented in the past that Dane has had a great life with Rugby League, one that has set up many positives in his life. This provides the drive for him ”My main drive is to see rugby league being experienced by as many people as possible the world over”.
Training session in the Solomon Islands
Using rugby league positives, it can be used to help develop youth “it sets many positive character traits and is a great tool for social and physical development amongst young people. By encouraging new nations to play the game I feel we are giving opportunities to individuals and whole communities to achieve success in their lives with rugby league as a vehicle. Specifically in the Pacific, the game is well known to many countries through television coverage of the NRL, so developing the game is a little easier as many people already know about the game, it is just giving guidance to the people within those nations to continue to drive the development”.
Though all this development is all well and good, is there really any potential in the Solomon Islands and with Danes recent trip to the Islands he was able to get a first hand look at what is there “I see great potential for the game throughout the Solomon Islands. On my recent trip to Honiara, I was able to sit with the current Executive of the SIRLA and I know that thery are extremely passionate about the game and we were able to draft a 3 year plan which covers all areas of game development, including a natural progression into new Provinces during that period. A big concentration will be spent on developing the game of 9s rugby league to begin with and also to see the formation of a Solomon Islands national side. Plans are already underway to have the national team play against Vanuatu in late 2013, with players chosen from the Honiara domestic competition and also those players that qualify through birth or heritage that are now playing in Australia or New Zealand. I also think that given the many links the Solomons has with PNG, that the game has great opportunity to flourish”.
Danes involvement right now is only in the beginning stages, but already plans have been laid down “My personal involvement to date with the SIRLA has been to start to develop a 3 year plan, identify eligible players currently playing in Australia, developing a marketing plan to present to the corporate community in Honiara and run a small development clinic in Honiara”.
For all the work he does, there needs to be help from other sources as well. I wondered how much outside help he has got with all his work “I have received great support from Tas Baitieri (RLIF) for the development in the Solomon Islands, as I know Tas and the RLIF are very eager to see the game played there after a few false starts in the past. As for the APRLF, I have spoken to representatives and believe that in time they will be able to offer further support to new rugby league playing nations like Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. My personal belief is that each new nation has to take accountability for their development and not seek handouts when first starting. It is far easier to seek assistance once there is something tangible taking place, rather than just asking for assistance with no or limited movement domestically”.
So what does the future hold for the Solomon Islands and Rugby League as well as Dane? “The big thing for any new nation is that it needs to have quality people driving the game from within. If I can play a small role in assisting those people develop the game, then I am willing to do that. I will continue to work with the SIRLA Executive and will travel to Honiara to offer my further support to development clinics and the generation of corporate partnerships. Long term, the plan is to se the Solomon Islands national team compete in the South Pacific Games in PNG in 2015, followed by playing in the Pacific Cup (RL) to seek qualification to the 2017 World Cup. Domestically, to create and sustain a 4 team competition in Honiara (the capital) over the next 2-3 years, with regional development into new Provinces such as Malaita and Gizo. A schools development plan has also been put into the 3 year plan, which would see basic skills of the game introduced through high schools and then primary schools”.
Dane (left) with Beaver Biti (SIRLA Board Member, right) and William Tuihaka (SIRLA President, middle).
There is a slight twist in all this with another “Pacific” nation approaching Dane about developing the sport there as well “I have also been approached by some people to attempt to develop the game in China. This is an extremely interesting concept and one in which I am willing to lend my support. I have opened dialogue with some people in China to go about the development of the code and am looking to travel to China and Hong Kong in mid 2013 to see what can take place over there”.
But there are other places that Dane has identified as well “I would also like to see greater development within the Caribbean and Africa, as I see both those regions as having tremendous athletes that are ideally suited to rugby league, so as time goes on, perhaps there are further opportunities for those regions”.
With this the future looks bright for Rugby League development in the Pacific and else where. Dane is truly doing an amazing job in the sports development. I just hope that one day he will be recognised for the work he does.
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