FINLEY Football Club was graced with AFL smarts on Saturday night when Essendon chief executive Xavier Campbell came out of retirement for the embattled Murray Football League club.
The 2015 Echuca-Moama Sportstar guest speaker has Finley at heart and when he found out the club was struggling for numbers on the eve of the season, he offered his knowledge and skills to get the club back where it belongs.
Campbell, Essendon’s chief executive since 2014, has family ties in Finley and at the club through his wife Claire (nee Hawkins).
Campbell’s decorated football career includes playing football in Echuca, where he grew up, winning a SANFL premiership for Sturt in 2002 and Echuca’s 2006 senior best-and-fairest.
Cats president Ashley Haynes said Campbell did not have to support the club, but showed great character in doing so.
‘‘He knows the club and is connected with a lot of people within the club, so when he found out we were struggling for numbers, he was willing to help us, ’’ Haynes said.
‘‘He has been very helpful in coming up with ideas to help build numbers and retain players.
‘‘We have a strong board as it is, we are a professional club, but he is coming from an elite environment so some of his ideas will and have been exceptional for us, while others will be too grand for our club.’’
With six players missing from Finley’s senior side on Saturday due to a wedding, Campbell stepped in to play.
‘‘He played well, we only kicked the three goals, so we had him playing all over the ground and he surprised me a little, ’’ Haynes said with a laugh.
‘‘He was very impressive and we could not speak highly enough of him, he addressed everyone post-game and the amount of care he shows for the club is amazing,’’ Haynes said.
Campbell is the son-in-law of well-known football identity and O’Dwyer medallist Michael Hawkins, and Haynes hoped it was not the last time Campbell could play for Finley.
‘‘He comes back to Finley a fair bit, so hopefully we can have him playing again and hopefully we won’t be so desperate for numbers,’’ Haynes said.