RAY Byrne always has mixed emotions about grand final day.The Bendigo Pioneers regional manager played in four losing grand finals – Carlton in 1973, and Collingwood, in 1979-81.“I thought we were going to win in 1979,’’ he said of Collingwood’s five-point loss to Carlton.“We had a lot of injuries and it cost us.“In 1980 no one would have beaten Richmond. They were too good.“In 1981 I thought we had Carlton. They got two late goals in the third quarter and then they got a run-on in the last quarter.“The 1981 loss was the one that hurt me the most. I didn’t even walk up to get my runners-up medal, I just walked off the ground.“I found it hard to come up after 1981. I wasn’t as dedicated with Collingwood in 1982. After losing those grand finals I’d lost some hunger.”Byrne played 219 VFL games at Carlton, Collingwood and Geelong.Despite playing with the Cats and the Pies, Byrne won’t have split allegiances for today’s AFL grand final.“I’m a Collingwood man.“I had a great time at Collingwood. When I went to Collingwood I played in 15 finals which was great, but we couldn’t win the flag.“I still like Carlton because they gave me my start and I’ve still got some great friends from the club.”A phone call from his former Collingwood mentor Tom Hafey persuaded Byrne to extend his VFL career with the Cats in 1984.“I’d retired from Collingwood and we moved to live in Geelong,’’ Byrne said.“I did the pre-season with Tommy, but I shouldn’t have played because I was gone as far as my body was concerned.“I got an extra 17 games out of it.”Byrne said you couldn’t compare Collingwood and Geelong in the 1980s.“Collingwood was the more professional club. Geelong was still a little bit like a bush footy side,’’ he said.“Tommy tried to bring in some professionalism and then Malcolm Blight took them to a new level when he took over later on.”As for today’s grand final, Byrne is confident the Pies will get over the line.“Collingwood has been ordinary for a month, but they’ve been winning.“There were so many players down in the last two finals ... they can’t stay down all the time.“I think Collingwood has more improvement in its side than Geelong does.“I can’t see Geelong holding all of Collingwood’s good players.“It won’t be a big margin, but I think the Pies will get home.”If the Cats do get over the line, Byrne will be happy for former Bendigo Pioneers star Joel Selwood.“Joel’s two finals have been sensational,’’ Byrne said.“His first quarter last week was first class. I’m really pleased for him. He’s a great kid.”The Cats line-up includes another Pioneers draftee, Josh Hunt in defence.