FALLEN Digger Cameron Baird will be forever remembered for his bravery and leadership with a medal struck in his honour to be awarded to a bright Victorian footballer each year.
The Corporal Cameron Baird MG VC Medal will be presented to the captain of the Victorian Primary School team to recognise the Australian soldier killed serving his country in Afghanistan last year.
Cpl Baird, 32, was post-humously awarded the Victoria Cross — Australia’s highest military honour — for valor, extreme devotion to duty and ultimate sacrifice as a Commando Team Commander after his death last June.
But in 1993, before he was an Australian hero, he was a junior football star proud to wear the Big V.
Cpl Baird was captain of the 1993 Victorian primary school team which won the Australian Championship, leading a squad including Brisbane Lions legend Jonathon Brown and former AFL player Leigh Brown.
The inaugural medal will be presented at The Shrine this weekend when this year’s team is announced at a ceremony attended by Cpl Baird’s parents Doug and Kaye.
Mr Baird said the School Sport Victoria medal was a fitting way to pay tribute to his son who grew up in Gladstone Park and played footy for the Calder Cannons before becoming a soldier.
“When you try and compare anything to a Victoria Cross anything is probably going to run secondary but having said that the thoughts from our family is that this is just such an outstanding award,’’ he said.
“We are so proud and we are so honoured and so humbled to be a part of it that we feel that is right up there with the Victoria Cross and we have no second thoughts about saying something like that.’’
Cpl Baird became the 40th Australian soldier to die in Afghanistan after drawing enemy fire away from his comrades in an incredible act of bravery in Uruzgan Province.
Mr Baird said he was proud his sports loving son, who also won the Australian 12 years discus championship in 1993, would now inspire future generations of young Victorians.
“It’s an outstanding award and i’s something that Cameron back in 1993 would have dreamed of,’’ he said.
Sports Minister Damian Drum paid tribute to Cpl Baird.
“The leadership skills Cpl Baird displayed as a 12 year-old footballer were a sign of what he grew to embody during his military career,’’ he said.
Brown, who played for North Melbourne, Collingwood and Fremantle, will present Big V jumpers to the 23 members of this year’s team this weekend.
Former Hawthorn player Stephen Green and North Melbourne’s Dylan Smith also played with Cpl Baird in the victorious 1993 team.
Cpl Baird attended Gladstone Views Primary School and Gladstone Park Secondary College before enlisting in the Australian Army.