Otago's Oceana Campbell in blistering form following freak injury

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She scored three tries in the 44-22 win over Hawke's Bay, another in the 39-10 thumping of Northland, and showed her versatility switching from wing to second five-eighth in the resounding 55-15 thumping of Taranaki in New Plymouth.

 

In September 2021 the likelihood of Campbell running freely was bleak following a freakish injury she suffered while assisting at Otago Under 19's training.

 

"I was walking down a hill at Kaikorai rugby club when I slipped and snapped my right leg. I broke my tibia and fibula and was told by a doctor I wouldn't be able to run for at least ten months," Campbell recalls.

 

"I was back running within four months and played the finals of the club season. I've been lucky to have incredible support.”

 

Campbell was aligned with Southern. In 2021 she played for Pirates who won the senior championship. In 2022 she joined the newly formed Dunedin Wahine Sharks. It was a fruitful move as they won the senior championship, defeating Big River Country 22-12 in the final. Campbell scored two tries.

 

"The Otago coaches encouraged me to join the new team which was formed to help strengthen the competition. We made a rocky start. It took a while to form good connections but once we did that we played with a lot of confidence.

 

“The final was a tough game against big country girls. We had to try and run around them rather than through them to win the game.”

 

 

One of four siblings, Campbell started playing rugby when she was four. Her parents Pepi and Ricky are big fans.

 

At Otago Girls’ High School she played basketball, volleyball, netball and touch until rugby became the solitary focus at Year 12.

 

“We won the championship in my first year and again when I was Year 12. That was a special victory because I was captain. It was my last year because I made the Spirit.”

 

Campbell was selected for Otago as a 17-year old in 2021. Her debut was in a narrow 5-13 defeat to Wellington at Jerry Collins Stadium. 

 

“I marked Lyric Faleafaga who was in the Black Ferns Sevens and almost cried. If it was Ayesha Leti-I'iga I would have cried, she’s my favourite player. 

 

"That was a tough game against stronger, more experienced women. I learnt a lot in my first season which helped strengthen my confidence.”

 

Otago is playing with plenty of belief. Last year they were demoted to the Championship, failing to win a single match in the Premiership. 

 

Northland, Hawke’s Bay and Taranaki have been swept away in 2022, each opposition a study of contrasts. 

 

“I was very nervous before my first game back though watching so much from the sidelines actually meant I was better prepared. 

 

“My favourite try was an intercept against the Tui. It was exciting because they don’t happen often and I ran about 50 metres. 

 

“Hawke’s Bay and Northland were very physical sides. We had to make our chop tackles and move the ball to the edge.

 

"Taranaki was smaller so they played with a bit more pace which meant we could be more physical as well as going wide."

 

Campbell studies sports science and education at Otago University.