When it comes to footy, Adam Baird bleeds blue and gold.
The blue and gold of his beloved Golden Square Football Netball Club where he is a four-time premiership player and the blue and gold of the BFNL.
When the Bendigo team runs on to the QEO on Saturday afternoon to play Outer East, Baird will be the most experienced inter-league player with eight appearances.
His passion for inter-league footy started 10 years ago in a period of Bendigo football when representing the league wasn't the highest priority for some players.
Bendigo was scheduled to play-arch-rival Ballarat at Bacchus Marsh in May, 2009.
The lead-up to the game was far from ideal, but the experience lit an inter-league fire in Baird that still burns strongly today.
"I remember going to the first inter-league training session and there was only about eight of us there,'' Baird recalled this week.
"We were basically all young blokes that hadn't played inter-league. Joffa (coach Jeff Brennan) said all eight of us were playing because we turned up.
"The next week we had the final training session before the game and there was lucky to be 20 players at training that night.
"On the bus on the way to the game in Bacchus Marsh, Derrick Filo and Steven Oliver tossed a coin to see who was going to be the 24th player in the team.
"It was unbelieavable, really."
Oliver, who was the league's chief executive officer at the time and wasn't playing club footy, pulled on the boots.
Oliver had three kicks for three goals and the young players ran Ballarat ragged as Bendigo scored one of its best wins in inter-league history - 21.12 (138) to 16.21 (117).
Baird played through the midfield and across half-forward and was one of Bendigo's best that day.
"Aside from premierships that win was one of the best wins I've had in my career,'' Baird said.
"No-one gave us a chance. The Ballarat paper wrote us off completely...Ballarat was a really heavy-set team and we were just a team of kids who had a crack.
"We had nothing to lose and we played with freedom.
"It was a memorable win and it seemed to get everyone in Bendigo footy up and about again when it came to inter-league footy.
"It showed that we could beat the better leagues in inter-league footy."
In seven inter-league games for Bendigo, Baird has been in the best six players four times, including a best on ground performance last year against Hampden which earned him the AFL Victoria Medal.
He made his debut for Victoria Country last year and was named best on ground in the 25-point win over Vic Metro.
"I've always loved playing inter-league footy,'' Baird said.
"Playing with blokes that you don't normally get to play with is great. It's a different feeling to club footy.
"I have no doubt that Bendigo footy should be higher in the rankings and that's one of the reasons why I'm so passionate about it.
"I'm confident we can match it with the likes of Geelong, Ovens and Murray and Goulburn Valley when we get our best players on the park."
For that reason the 2011 inter-league game against Geelong at Kardinia Park still leaves a sour taste in Baird's mouth.
Victory over Geelong would have put Bendigo into the top four of the state rankings.
That goal looked achievable when Bendigo raced to a four-goal lead at quarter-time.
"Tigga Downie was on fire at centre half-forward and then he popped his shoulder in the second quarter,'' Baird recalled.
"That was our undoing in that game and we got rolled.
"It was such a high quality game of footy that day. It was one that got away."
Geelong won the game by 20 points. Baird kicked three goals and was one of Bendigo's best players.
Geelong used that win to springboard to the top of the rankings.
In the past eight years Bendigo's ranking has largely yo-yoed between sixth and 10th.
A win over Outer East on Saturday would put Bendigo back inside the top eight.
Unlike Baird's first experience a decade ago, Bendigo has had a solid preparation for Saturday's clash.
"It's a really good group and, considering we're opposition players each Saturday, we seem to be a pretty close group,'' Baird said.
"Everyone gets on really well and (coach) Darryl (Wilson) has been really professional in the way he's set things up.
"Hopefully, we can get the chocolates and get our ranking back up there a bit."
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