No surprise for VC's footy club

Few at footy club the Calder Cannons are surprised by their Victoria Cross winner.

No one at the Calder Cannons football club was surprised when Cameron Baird joined the armed forces.

Nor are they surprised he has been posthumously awarded the 100th Victoria Cross.

"He played footy probably like the way he was a soldier," Corporal Baird's former coach Robert Hyde says.

"He was just full-on. He had no fear."

The special forces soldier, who was killed aged 32 in Afghanistan last year, was born in the Tasmanian port-town of Burnie but grew up in the Melbourne suburb of Gladstone Park.

The son of a VFL player and big for his age, Cameron excelled at discus and played junior football for the Cannons alongside future AFL stars like Jude Bolton, Paul Chapman and Ryan O'Keefe.

"He was a huge presence," Hyde says.

"He was a great big, strong young fella, he'd attack the ball, he had good hands."

Off the field, Cameron was quiet, determined, disciplined.

"He was a good kid," says Hyde.

"He'd work to the nth degree.

"If you said 'you need to pick a up a yard in pace', he would diligently go out and do some extra training with speed and agility to be able to perform to his best."

"Bairdy's" years at the Cannons culminated in a reserves game for Geelong, but the interest from AFL clubs was tempered by a shoulder injury.

He joined the army in 2000, a career choice not unexpected at his old club.

"You don't sit back and say oh that's a surprise," Hyde says.

"It wasn't.

"I thought 'oh well, he's pretty bloody well-suited to doing that'."

Then-Private Baird was posted to the 4th Battalion (Commando), now the 2nd Commando Regiment, serving in East Timor in 2001 and in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2003.

He quit the army in 2004 but returned to the Commando Regiment in 2006, earning promotion to lance corporal a year later.

When Corporal Baird led a team under heavy machine-gun fire to recover a wounded comrade in Afghanistan in 2007, he earned the Medal for Gallantry.

He would be deployed to Afghanistan three more times, in 2009, 2011-12 and, fatefully, 2013 when he became the 40th Australian soldier killed in the conflict.

Corporal Baird's Victoria Cross won't be his only honour.

Back at the Calder Cannons there are plans to name the award for the club's most courageous player after him to remind players of bigger sacrifices.

Next week, a framed newspaper article written after his death will be hung on a wall at the club's function centre, the only piece of memorabilia in the room.

"He'd be greatly honoured," says Hyde.

"He wouldn't gloat about it but he'd be extremely proud."

And maybe a bit embarrassed.

"Cameron never liked the limelight. He was a humble man," his brother Brendan said on Thursday.

Source: AAP

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