Ray Baira proves to be Goodna's own 'magic man'
BETTER than the magic man.
That is what Goodna coach Laurie Campbell told dazzling centre Ray Baira he was before he ran out in the A grade grand final against Fassifern.
Campbell was referring to a back page article in the QT last week about the Bombers try scoring centre Leveni Kurimalawai which was headlined 'who can stop this magic man?'
"I told Ray Baira in the sheds before we started 'you are the man. You are better than them and better than the magic man',” Campbell said after the win.
After Campbell's words of inspiration, Baira went out in the 32-14 grand final win and outplayed his opposite number.
He defended like his life depended on it, backed up a 50m run by Rez Phillips to score, threw a one-handed pass for a Ratu Waqanivalu try which fooled the Bombers defenders and then set up a try for Waqanivalu on full-time with a breathtaking run.
Baira was marking Kurimalawai, who scored two tries from close range, and explained his mindset to the QT.
"Leveni's a really good player and the only thing I had to do tonight was defend,” Baira said.
"This was the first time I played against him on his side. He was a bit shocked and I was a bit shocked.
"He got one on me and I got one on him.
"I told myself tonight 'be safe, play safe'.”
Baira was certainly error free but he was also razzle dazzle and bloody brilliant.
If that was safe, we'd love to see unsafe.
Baira did magnificently well to back up Phillips and put himself in just the right position to finish the runaway prop's break.
"I saw Rez make a break and I thought 's***, he needs me there',” Baira grinned when asked about his try.
"I made the call on the outside and it was just lucky that he heard me.”
Goodna five-eighth Corey Kirk said there was more than luck to Baira's performance.
"Ray probably hasn't reached his potential for us this year but we knew he was an absolute freak of a player,” Kirk said.
"We were confident he would do something special.
"There is no bigger stage, and he produced the goods.
"He is an absolute legend and a big reason why we came out on top.”
Captain Ramon Filipine agreed with Kirk and said Baira had a big future in the game.
"I told you last week that he was the X-factor. I said to Ray in the sheds 'it is your time to shine',” Filipine said.
"He had a lot of family here and he really put it on for them.
"He is definitely a player I want to go on to bigger and better things.
"So if there is anyone out there looking for a centre . . . Ray Baira. He's a freak.”