Tom Campbell’s 50-game milestone has been a long time coming.
But after six seasons at the Bulldogs, and in his third year at North, the big man is enjoying a well-deserved, consistent run at AFL level.
With just three senior games in two seasons, Campbell has bided his time in the VFL, winning North’s VFL best and fairest in 2019 while achieving a third-place finish in the JJ Liston Trophy that same year.
But the big man put together one of his best games in North colours on Saturday, as he finished with career-highs in disposals (19), marks (8) and intercepts (9).
Playing five straight AFL games for the first time since 2016, Campbell says having a clear awareness of the expectations placed on him has put him in prime position to contribute at senior level.
“I work really closely with Anthony Rocca on the ruck position and making sure I have real clarity about the roles and expectations of me each week,” Campbell told North Media.
“I also do a lot of work with Heath Younie in the forward line as well to make sure I’m clued in on that role as well.
“For me playing two different positions in the game I just need to go into every game knowing how to have as much impact as I can and then executing that."
While other areas of North’s list have been struck down by injury, the ruck stocks are as strong as ever, with Campbell competing with Tristan Xerri and former All-Australian Todd Goldstein for a place in the senior side.
With Goldstein resuming his place as one of the best rucks in the competition and Xerri making waves at VFL level, Campbell says the motivation to keep raising his own standards every week is always there.
“All three genuine rucks on the list really push each other all the time to be better,” he said.
“We know whoever is in the AFL team has earned their position in the side and is going to fight to hold onto their spot.
“We all work closely and support each other through the week so we all give ourselves the opportunity to perform as well as we can.”
The youth of North’s list this season has been well documented, and being one of the elder statesmen in the side, Campbell has taken on something of a mentor role for a number of young players.
“I think it’s an important role that older players on the list need to play to help the younger guys coming through,” he said.
“The AFL is a really difficult and cut-throat environment, so to have the support of older teammates can really help the younger guys.
“I make a conscious effort to try to fill that role for younger players and help guide them where I can.”