The turnaround at Shepparton Football Club can be traced back to September 2013.
It was when Brad Campbell was appointed coach of the Bears.
After a year as an assistant coach at the Murray Bushrangers, the former Mooroopna boss decided it was time to get back into Goulburn Valley League ranks.
He knew it was going to be a difficult assignment, with the Bears coming off a second winless season in four years.
It makes Shepparton’s appearance in Sunday’s Goulburn Valley League grand final all the more rewarding.
The proud club, which has won 26 senior premierships, but none since 2000, is back where it belongs.
‘‘I’m very proud of how far we’ve been able to come,’’ Campbell said this week.
‘‘You always try to set some goals to be in this type of position, but it’s never smooth sailing and the first couple of years were a bit like that.
‘‘We had to set the foundations again before last year, but then we started to get some momentum and stability in the playing group with plenty of senior football under their belt.
‘‘The club has done a great job in the last few years and a grand final is a good reward for the hard work.
‘‘Footy clubs can be difficult with all the things you have to do; recruiting, keeping players, planning and staying financial and it’s hard when you’re not winning games.
‘‘But when you are winning, all those little things are a bit easier.’’
While Campbell has taken Shepparton to this point, he won’t be going any further.
He announced after last season that this would be his last year in charge.
After a decade straight of coaching, he needs a break and will enjoy it when it comes.
Spending more time with wife Millie and his two children, along with work at Cardamone Real Estate, are high on the agenda.
But he will miss the competitive side of the game that he finds incredibly addictive.
‘‘All coaches are the same that coaching is a bit addictive that you’re so driven to do well,’’ Campbell said.
‘‘You love the playing group and the club and you’re forever thinking about the game.
‘‘In that way it’s hard to say how much time you would spend on coaching, but it wouldn’t be far off a full-time job.
‘‘It’s always in the back of your mind and it’s pretty much in your head 24-7.
‘‘Then you factor in the physical work involved, time away from home and pre-seasons and getting feedback off players.’’
Campbell has always had a good group of assistant and support staff during his four seasons.
However, he got a major boost this year with the addition of the respected Rob McCartney.
The plan was for him to take over from Campbell at the Bears next year, but family commitments and scoring a plum job at Hawthorn Football Club means that will no longer happen.
Campbell has lauded what McCartney has brought to Shepparton, despite the disappointment of seeing him leave at the end of the season.
‘‘Rob has been brilliant and I knew he would offer a lot for us when we first got him on board,’’ Campbell said.
‘‘Obviously he was at the Hawks for a few years before coming here and he was part of a coaching group that included Alastair Clarkson and all those other good assistants who have gone onto coach clubs in their own right.
‘‘Rob has a great ability to be really positive and sell the method and how we should play, instil confidence in the group. But at the same time he can be quite firm and demanding in other areas of our game.
‘‘He’s had the biggest influence I’ve ever seen on a footy club and our coaching group has never seen anything like it before and it’s certainly opened up my eyes.’’
It is Campbell’s second grand final as coach after getting Mooroopna to the 2011 decider before losing a classic to Shepparton United.
The young Bears don’t have a lot of grand final experience in their camp, but midfielders Ben Davies and Dave Stretton, who came to the club this year, have been in the VFL system with Williamstown.
With Kyabram boasting 10 players with AFL or VFL experience, the task of knocking off the undefeated reigning premier is going to be giant. The Bombers have won games in the past two years before teams even walk out on the field, such is their reputation.
But Campbell said his team believed it could do the unthinkable and dethrone the king.
‘‘You do dream about it (winning a premiership), but you don’t want to think too far ahead either,’’ Campbell said.
‘‘They’re (Kyabram) going to be extremely hard to beat, they’ve obviously won so many games in a row.
‘‘But we have to believe we can do it and our group has been getting better every week.
‘‘What we’ve done in the last few weeks hasn’t surprised us and it gives us confidence.
‘‘If we can play our best, we’ll be right in the hunt, but it’s extremely exciting for a lot of people.’’