Born in Tocumwal , Des was a champion schoolboy runner at St. Bedes College during the 1940’s before switching to the pro’s.
Des’ first wins at Stawell came with a rush when, in 1951, he won the 600 and 880 yards double. This early success continued in the following year with a win in the Backmarkers Mile, which he won again in 1955. He also ran a gallant but disappointing second in the Federation Handicap that year when, off a back mark, he hit the front with one lap to go, after passing some 40 or 50 runners. In a thrilling finish, Des was eventually run down in the shadow of the post by Les Goody. The fact that his dad had invested 100 pounds on him that day may have been the cause of his over enthusiasm in the early laps.
Although from New South Wales, Des won 12 other races throughout Victoria. During this time, he had 4 wins at Bendigo, including the 880 yards Australian Championship, as well as 2 wins at both Burramine and Cobram. By this time, however, the handicapper was doing him no favours and he was starting at the back of the field.