KICKING the winning goal after the siren in a grand final – every boy dreams of it, very few get the chance to even attempt it.
But Ash Baker is among the lucky few.
Wind the clock back five years – the final siren in the BFL grand final had sounded and the ball was in the then Ballarat captain Ash Baker’s hands.
The Swans were down by a point and all Baker was thinking about was registering a point and sending the grand final against Darley into extra time.
Instead, he went back to his mark and slotted the goal from about 50 metres out to seal Ballarat’s first senior flag in 20 years.
“I never even thought about kicking the goal to be honest, I was just trying to get some sort of score to get us into extra time,” Baker said.
“I went back and it was lucky enough to go through, it was an amazing feeling.”
Five years on and the 33-year-old will run out for his beloved Swans in his 200th game for the club tomorrow.
Now the coach of the side, the Ballarat High School teacher looks back at his time at Alfredton Oval with great fondness.
Originally from Derrinallum, he played VFL with North Ballarat Roosters for four years.
During that time, his home club of Derrinallum went into recess, meaning he actually did not have a home club.
In 2001, the then Swans coach Grant Polkinghorne encouraged him to nominate Ballarat as his home club, where he played when the Roosters had the bye.
It was not long before Baker was a full-time Swans player, winning his first of six club best and fairest awards in 2003.
In a highly decorated career, Baker captained the side from 2006 to 2011, became an assistant coach in 2012, before taking the senior reins in 2013.
He has also been appointed to coach on again in 2014.
Club president Shane Manley paid homage to the Ballarat stalwart.
“He is one of the most highly respected people not only within the Ballarat Swans, but I am sure throughout the league,” Manley said.
“He epitomises what every club loves to see in its players.”
There were certainly some dark times, he recalled losing one match by about 35 goals to Sunbury in the early 2000s.
However, if the Swans beat Sebastopol tomorrow, as is very much expected, Ballarat will have made finals for seven consecutive years.
Joe Otto, Nigel Otto, James Quayle and Braeden Deary will come back into the side, in what is a case of Ballarat playing for a guaranteed spot in the finals.
“If we don’t win it, we don’t deserve to be in finals, it’s that simple,” Baker said.
For Sebastopol, James Blackwell, Daniel Cuthbertson and Anthony Smith come in, while Marshall Cain, Jacob Eyres and Jacob Wilkinson are among the exclusions.
PREDICTION: Ballarat to make absolutely certain of its finals spot.