The stage is set for Reagan Campbell-Gillard to prove himself for his second representative goal tomorrow night when he achieves his first against France.
The burly front-rower from Blacktown has always dreamed of playing for Australia, and his debut tomorrow night could be the first audition into potentially stepping into the State of Origin arena in years to come.
“I’ve always had two main goals to reach, this one [Australia] has come first,” Campbell-Gillard says.
“State of Origin has been in my mind, I’ve got to see what happens next year and play some consistent footy.
“[I] have to go back to club footy and if your team is playing well and you’re playing well, things could go your way.
“But I’m not looking too far ahead, my main focus right now is here [in Kangaroos camp] and then going back to the pre-season.”
Not only will Campbell-Gillard debut for the Kangroos tomorrow night, but coach Mal Meninga has selected him to start in the front-row alongside fellow NSW hopeful Jordan McLean.
To say he’s excited is an understatement, and there’s no doubt the Penrith prop thoroughly deserves a chance to don the green-and-gold after a massive club season where he played all 26 games for the Panthers.
He’s spoken to Meninga who has simplified his role, which Campbell-Gillard bluntly describes, “when you carry the ball, you carry the team.”
“I’ve always dreamed about playing for Australia and then getting told on Tuesday I get to play, I’m still pinching myself and [I’m] very excited,” Campbell-Gillard says.
“I’ll stick to what I know works for me, playing with all of those players it gives you more motivation to go [to] another level, I’ll just keep it simple and do the things that I know works.
“The family is very proud and very happy, I spoke to mum yesterday and she was in a few tears.
“It’s one of the biggest moments of my career and I want to take those chances with both hands and build my trust and respect within the team; hopefully I can keep building my footy very nicely and go further in the campaign.”
Even if he sits out a few games in this World Cup, the experience Campbell-Gillard receives just from being within this camp of superstars is invaluable to his future representative and club career.
It’s a refreshing vibe around the likes of Cameron Smith and Billy Slater, and he admits the coach has a vastly different influence at international level.
“It’s just been really calm and relaxing it’s a different type of camp,” Campbell-Gillard says.
“If you look at a club’s perspective, it’s a lot different where a coach takes more control and you’re doing a lot more things; in here its Smith, Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater [and] all [of] those senior boys are taking control.
“Its honestly been the best couple of weeks I’ve ever witnessed, it’s pretty nice to learn off those types of players, then Mal jumps in there and throws in a few guidance words.
“I’m starting to get comfortable now, which is good, you still get a little bit nervous when you’re sitting at the table with Cameron Smith and Billy Slater having dinner.
“You’ve got to pinch yourself cause a few years ago you were watching them play for Australia and their clubs.”
Admittedly, only a stroke of luck gave Campbell-Gillard this opportunity, as he was Andrew Fifita’s replacement when he defected to the Tongan side.
He’s turned that late call-up into his first Kangaroos jersey, and he’s not about to let it go without a fight.
“I said that soon as I got into camp, [that] it was a bit of luck that I had go my way,” Campbell-Gillard says.
“You need a bit of luck in Rugby League, I’m pretty excited and privileged to be here and I won’t take it for granted.”
“I will definitely take those chances with both hands.”