“Reggie is just like that, people want to take his head off, he’s a chirpy bloke,” Cleary said. “He makes some silly comments sometimes. It’s just how it is. When he said that he stopped trying last year, a few of the boys were quite pissed off about that. It might have been frustrating for him, but it was frustrating for everyone else, too.
“Last year was a pretty weird year. I didn’t notice too much at the time, but he obviously wasn’t too happy. I am happy for him now that he’s moved on to Parra and he’s happy again and playing some good footy. So good luck to him.”
Coach Ivan Cleary, who made the decision to drop Campbell-Gillard to reserve grade on the back of the prop’s disappointing form, understood why his players were offended by Campbell-Gillard admitting that he’d thrown in the towel.
“Anyone would take offence to that,” Ivan said. “I don’t think that’s the way to handle it. I wasn’t at my best or feeling the best last year either. I didn’t give up.”
Campbell-Gillard has fired plenty of shots at his old club since defecting to the Eels, including a jab at his old coach.
“I’m not a bench player. It’s plain and simple. I don’t like coming off the bench,” Campbell-Gillard said before the season. “Ifeel comfortable with this team. The coaching staff, it’s chalk and cheese from what I’ve been under from last year.
“Ivan has his ways of how he coaches and Brad has another one. I feel comfortable with the way Brad wants to coach. There’s that sense of being wanted to be in the team. When Parra came knocking, it was a no-brainer. I had to bite the bullet to get out of the comfort zone.”
There’s no love lost between Parramatta and Penrith, the latter contributing about $300,000 towards the salaries of Waqa Blake and Campbell-Gillard in 2020.
Blake had a field day against his old club the last time the two teams met back in round five, embarrassing young centre Stephen Crichton in an attacking masterclass to spark a come-from-behind win and hand Penrith their first and only loss of the 2020 season so far.
“The way Waqa played last time, he pretty much single-handedly won them the game last time,” Nathan said.
“But it’s a credit to Critta [Crichton] as well. For something like that to happen so early in the season against a guy like Waqa, who was here last season, it could have taken a big toll on other younger players. I know if I was in his shoes it would have on me. The way he has bounced back has been unbelievable.”
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Michael Chammas is a sports reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald