GVL history shows that the Shepparton /City United Football Club won the GVL Flag in 1967. It was an epic grand final against fierce rivals Shepparton who were trying to win their fourth successive flag.
The “Demons” had brought tough man John Brady out of retirement for his only game for the year. Whilst the Brady selection was big news in that grand final, the star was the athletic 17 year old Des Campbell.
Des, rotating between Centre half forward Full forward kicked 69 goals in his debut season. At 16 years of age United coach Murray Kick had invited Des to train with United but he suffered a broken ankle in his third game which finished his season.
It was obvious that United had a new star in the making.
Des had made a name for himself as a junior sportsman playing football with United and Lemnos Ramblers and cricket with Shepparton Youth Club.
With so much talent, it was obvious that he would come under notice of the GVL selectors and in 1969 at 18 years of age Des represented the League for the first time at Centre Half Forward.
He also won the Shepparton News award and the “Demons” best player award that year.
In 1969 he won United’s best player award again and he ran second to Tatura’s John Greenwood in the Morrison Medal.
He was so agile and was nick named “The Panther”.
The VFL talent scouts were soon on his trail and in 1970 he was reluctantly recruited to Melbourne to play with the Melbourne Demons.
He made the senior team and played 10 senior games in his first year.
He had also qualified for the reserves team and played in a winning grand final team with Melbourne Reserves.
However, Des couldn’t settle in Melbourne, he was not happy with City life and returned to Shepparton United at the end of the season.
He won his third United Best and fairest award in 1971.
At the end of the 1972 season he was appointed as coach of the Demons at 22 years of age.
They were beaten by Kyabram in the 1973 preliminary final.
1974 was a big year, Des coached the Demons into the finals again.
As the “Demons” played a tie in a final, they played in 5 finals that year and defeated hot favourites Euroa to win the flag.
In an incredible performance, Des Campbell was voted best player in all 5 finals.
Melbourne Football Clubs iconic Secretary Jim Cardwell announced after the grand final that he would do everything possible to try and lure Des back to Melbourne.
By this time Des had married Sue and was more settled with life so He and Sue decided to give the VFL one more try.
He returned to Melbourne and played 50 games in 3 years.
But his love of country life was too great and he wished to return to the Goulburn Valley.
The United coaching position was not available and he accepted the position at Tongala.
The” Dark Blues” had not won a game in seniors or reserves in the previous season but their thirds had done well and Des thought he had something to work with.
Des made a great impact on Tongala as people flocked to support the star player who had chosen to coach the local side.
The “Blues” won six games in his first year.
But Des Campbell‘s return to the GV was also fantastic for the GVL as the Winfield Country Championships were instituted and Des played a starring role in the Leagues success in winning the title.
His performance in the GVL win over the Ovens and Murray League at Benalla was one of the best ever seen for the GVL.
He also played a wonderful game in the grand final at Colac. Des holds that Country championship and the friends he made very high in his memory.
He was named player of the series in 1978.
He also won his second “Shepparton News” award that year.
In 1979 Tongala lost 2 finals games and Des was again runner up in the Morrison Medal.
He returned to coach United in 1980, a wonderful year for the club winning all three premierships.
Des also captained the GVL representative team.
At the end of the 1981 season due to a knee injury he retired as a player and acted as non-playing coach and lost the preliminary final.
The Demons decided to make a change and Des was lured back to Tongala.
He came out of playing retirement to coach Tongala to their first premiership in 22 years.
The next year Tongala were premiers again, defeating Des’s former club Shepparton United.
Des then hung up the boots for good.
He had one more season at Tongala as non- playing coach in 1985.
He then had 5 years out of club football, but in 1992 he returned to coaching with the Kyabram “Bombers”. Whilst there was no grand final success he had a remarkable record of winning.
Kyabram won 28 home and away games in succession but lost 4 out of 5 finals in two years.
Des has a wonderful record in Football: He coached in 4 GVL grand finals for 4 premierships.
Played in 5 GVL grand finals for 5 premierships.
He played 169 games for Shepp. United, 80 games for Tongala, played 12 representative games for the league as well as coaching the League in 3 games.
The GVFL now honours one of its greatest ever players in Des Campbell who will proudly take his place as a member of the GVL Hall of Fame.