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REPUTATIONS are made – and can be broken – on grand final day.
For Golden Square’s Adam Baird, you’ve only got to look back through the list of grand final best players during the Bulldogs’ reign of dominance that landed five flags between 2009 and 2013 to know he’s a player who thrives on the big stage.
He was the Bulldogs’ fourth best player in the 2009 grand final win over South Bendigo; third best against Eaglehawk in the 2011 whitewash and second best against Gisborne in the 2012 epic.
An injured shoulder early in the 2010 decider curtailed his influence that year, while he returned to his home club Donald in 2013 in what was the year the Bulldogs defeated Strathfieldsaye for their fifth-straight flag.
Having then spent the past two years in Queensland playing with Labrador, including in a QAFL premiership last season, Baird has returned to Golden Square and on Saturday gets another chance to show his wares on grand final day when the Bulldogs tackle rivals Sandhurst at the QEO.
“I love the extra pressure… everyone is there watching you, so you’re going to get judged,” Baird said this week.
“I suppose I put a bit of extra pressure on myself to perform well so I don’t look like a dud.”
The pacy Baird’s return has had a double benefit for the Bulldogs this year.
Not only has he returned to the club as a one-point player and been a driving force through the midfield, but he has also brought with him his Labrador premiership team-mate of last year, versatile key position player Chris Ryan, who was one of three Bulldogs to represent Victoria Country in July.
“It’s been great back at Golden Square this year and probably the best year of footy I’ve played,” said Baird, who came equal fourth in the Michelsen Medal last Sunday night with 15 votes.
“I went up to the Gold Coast a couple of years ago as a wingman, but they threw me into the middle and I grew from there.
“I came back to Golden Square wanting to play more on-ball than out on the wing like I used to and I’ve really enjoyed it.”
While there’s a fifth premiership medal beckoning for Baird – who will play alongside his brother Travis – he’s determined to ensure retiring superstar Simon Rosa gets a fitting send-off.
“He’s been a mentor to me midfield-wise and I’ve always looked up to him,” Baird said.
“At three quarter-time last week (when the Bulldogs trailed Eaglehawk by 16 points) Jack (Geary) brought us in as a midfield group and said we don’t want this to be Rosa’s last game, and that definitely gave us a bit of an edge.”