Track star Sam Baird gives up running to pursue football career

BALLARAT track star Sam Baird has given up a Commonwealth Games dream to pursue a one-off crack at a professional football career.

The 400-metre speedster has decided to hang up his running boots and trade them for footy studs for at least the 2014 season, eyeing off a potential year with the North Ballarat Rebels in the TAC Cup.

Having already relinquished what would have been a guaranteed selection in the Australian team for the IAAF World Junior Championships in the USA in July, Baird has conceded his decision has also ruled a line through earlier aspirations to compete in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Instead, he will start the season playing for Clunes in the Central Highlands Football League, before hopefully being added to the Rebels’ list.

From there, Baird believes anything is possible, even a long-shot at making an AFL list.

The 18-year-old said it was a difficult decision for him to make, one he acknowledged not everyone would agree with.

However, he said deep down he felt it was the right call to make.

“I might have disappointed a few people with my decision and made a few people unhappy, but in reality it was something I wanted to do,” Baird said.

“I’d been dwelling on it for a while, the thought had sort of been growing since the start of the year.

“I’d love to exploit my speed on the field and hopefully use that to my advantage. I’ve always missed the footy environment.”

Baird had already ran a world junior qualifying time of 46.78 for 400 metres this year and felt he could run even faster.

That time would have guaranteed him a spot in the 4x400m relay team, while also making him eligible for a spot in the Australian team for the individual 400m event.

However the latest injury, a grade one quadriceps strain, was enough to sway him over the edge.

“Because it is my last year as a junior in footy I thought I would give it one final crack and see what happens. Who knows what will happen,” the Ballarat Grammar year 12 student said.

“At the moment I can say I’m 100 per cent committed to footy and, depending on what happens, it could be less than a year I’m taking off running. It’s not like I’m completely giving running away or anything.”

Despite conceding the Commonwealth Games are now off the cards, the formerly Peter O’Dwyer-coached runner said the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics were not yet ruled out.

“If footy doesn’t work out, it is still two years before the Olympics once I’m back in athletics.”

patrick.nolan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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