Cameron Baird Statue Awarded To Best On Ground In Final ANZAC Test
This story first appeared on smh.com.au.
This is why the Anzac Test matters. Corporal Cameron Baird lived by the motto "Aspire to inspire" and Australia's most recent Victoria Cross recipient will do exactly that on Friday night.
Corporal Baird died fighting for his country in Afghanistan in 2013 and became the 100th Australian to receive the Victoria Cross for his bravery.
Corporal Baird was an Australian discus champion, a Victorian shot put champion and his father - who played football for AFL club Carlton - felt if it wasn't for a shoulder injury his son would have been drafted into the AFL.
But he also had a connection with the NRL, having worked with the South Sydney Rabbitohs about a year before their drought-breaking premiership.
He took them on a training camp where he put them through the "wringer".
His father thought his son "rattling the tin cans at 3am" to wake up the Souths players might have played a small part in the Rabbitohs' success.
It meant Doug had a "soft spot" for former Souths hooker Issac Luke, who will wear the No.9 jersey for New Zealand on Friday night, and hoped he might win the statue - while the Kangaroos won the game.
"We have a soft spot for Issac Luke in the New Zealand side that when Cameron was killed they had a tribute at the Sydney Rabbitohs game and on Luke's wrist he had the word 'Cam'," Doug said.
"So we're very much looking out to Luke and hope he gets a game and on the Australian side we've just got a plethora of stars."
The clash between Australia and New Zealand at Canberra Stadium will be the last time the mid-year Test is played.
It has been squeezed out of the NRL schedule from next year and officials are hoping a crowd of more than 20,000 will give the game a fitting farewell.
But there's more to the game than trans-Tasman honours. Corporal Baird will be honoured via a special tribute when his father, Doug, presents a miniature statue of his son to the best on ground on Friday.
He leaves a legacy via his charity Cam's Cause, which works to raise awareness and funds for members of the military affected by war.
His father Doug said the chance to honour the military highlighted the importance of games like the Anzac Test.
"Most definitely. We hope too that Cameron's our last Victoria Cross recipient, because what that will mean is we haven't been to war," he said.
"Probably there could be a synergy there - the last Anzac Test, possibly the last Victoria Cross being given out."