Career : 1911
Debut : Round 1, 1911 vs Essendon, aged 20 years, 362 days
Carlton Player No. 246
Games : 3
Goals : 0
Last Game: Round 3, 1911 vs Fitzroy, aged 21 years, 10 days
DOB : 2 May, 1890
We don’t know why Robert Wallace Bruce Campbell preferred being called by his third name instead of his first. What we do know is that he came to Carlton from WA, played three matches, and went mighty close to notching up draws in all of them. His first two games ended in tied scores, while his last in navy blue was a two-point defeat by Fitzroy.
Born in Richmond in 1890, Campbell later moved to Western Australia. By his late teens he was coming under notice for his dashing play in the maroon and gold of Subiaco, so in 1910 he was convinced to give VFL football a go with Carlton. His career began in round one of the following year, against Essendon at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground. Bruce lined up at half-back that afternoon, alongside Martin Gotz and Norman Clark. The match was notable for two reasons - it ended in a draw, and it marked the debut of three-time Carlton Premiership coach Jack Worrall in his new role as coach of the Same Old.
Campbell was shifted to centre half-forward when Carlton played South Melbourne at Princes Park in round two, and the game made back page headlines when each team kicked a modest 10.6 (66) to bring up consecutive draws for the Blues. Held scoreless in that game, Bruce was sent back into defence for the third round clash with Fitzroy. The Blues fell agonisingly short again however, and were beaten by two points.
Soon after that – possibly after a dispute over where he played best - Bruce Campbell left Princes Park to throw in his lot with Fitzroy. The Maroons saw him more as a forward, and their judgement seemed to have been proven right when he kicked 27 goals in fifteen matches for them. But Bruce stayed just two seasons at Brunswick Street, and seemed to have given up the game for good when he told them he wasn’t going on after the 1912 season.
Then, eight years later – in 1920 - he bobbed up again at Melbourne. Although by then rising thirty, he played five more games and kicked four more goals in one last hurrah – well, not quite.
Twenty-one years after hanging up his boots as a VFL footballer, Bruce Campbell volunteered to serve his country in World War II. Because of his age (he was 51) he was refused front line service, but rose to the rank of Lieutenant during more than three years in uniform as part of Australia’s home defence force.