Sport

Last time Echuca defeated Kyabram

By Andrew Johnston

Xavier Campbell has waited a long time for an Echuca grand final berth.

He may now be the chief executive of Essendon, but he still bleeds bottle green.

And he will forever be frustrated he couldn't deliver his beloved club a premiership.

He had three stints as a player with the Murray Bombers, including being a member of arguably one of the best Echuca sides in history between 2010 and 2011.

It was a side that included the names of Andrew Briggs, Brad Murray, Kristian Height, Rhys Archard, Simon Maddox, Campbell and his brother Jamus, and Ollie Wines.

It's a team with two unwanted pieces of history — the side that lost consecutive preliminary finals, and the last Echuca side to register a win against Kyabram.

“History will always say there was something missing,” Campbell said.

“We had a great side, we worked really well together, but we only ever were as good as a preliminary final. I have always felt like we could have — really should have — achieved more.”

While they never made the final day of the season, they do hold the history of a semi-final victory that ended Ky's season in 2011 — revenge against the side that had beaten them in a preliminary final the year before.

“It was a beautiful day in Benalla,” Campbell said.

“We went into that game as the favourites to win, we had a really good feeling as we had already beaten them once that year.”

Echuca's side that day also featured Tom Sheldon and Axel Childs — two players who are likely to feature in red and black on Sunday against their old club.

It went exactly according to plan.

Kyabram's current premiership mastermind Paul Newman booted four, but it was five goals from Height and four from Chris Casey that guided Echuca to a massive 67-point victory.

Echuca would head into the prelim the following week against Mooroopna, but the road ended for the bottle green as they fell by 26 points to the Cats.

It's a result that haunts not only Campbell, but his then junior teammate Wines too.

“I have such a fond memory of that team,” Wines said.

“It will go down as one of the best country footy sides ever on paper. I was only a 16-year-old kid running around, I probably didn't realise how great these names were until I look back.

“We let a few opportunities go. We probably had the chance to win a couple of flags, but we left them out there.”

It's been eight long years since that day — too long for Campbell — who hopes to see the current Echuca side claim a flag.

But he won't be able to be there on the day.

“I'm actually heading to San Francisco for my studies,” he said.

“I had a look at the itinerary and it was genuinely quite upsetting that I won't get to watch the match. I would love to be there, especially if we win.”

Campbell briefly laughed to himself, before taking a quick clip at the opposition.

“I love the town of Kyabram, but I'm definitely no fan of the football club.”

But all feelings towards the opposition comes from a deep-seeded love for his Murray Bombers.

“I will always love Echuca and, while I'm not a part of the club as a player, I want them to have the success,” he said.

“I want it for the people who are still there. I grew up around the corner from Simon Maddox, I played a lot of footy with him. Few people care more about Echuca than him. I want to see him as a premiership coach.

“I want to see people like Walks (Andrew Walker) and AB (Ash Byrne) who have done so much for Echuca in the past few years get to be a part of a premiership. There are so many people at our club who have been there for so long, and I want a premiership for them.”