Three knee reconstructions and plenty of heartache later, Hawthorn ruckman Max Bailey stood surrounded by well-wishers in the change rooms after yesterday's AFL grand final victory and reflected on a 43-game AFL career.
"It's highly satisfying. It makes everything I've done valid," the 26-year-old premiership player said last night as he discussed the anguish of wondering if the Hawks would want an injury-prone big man on their books.
"I can't thank this club enough for what they've done for me," said Bailey, who made his debut for the Hawks way back in 2006.
Bailey had nine hit-outs and seven possessions before being subbed off in the second half as Hawthorn claimed its 11th flag and first with Bailey in the line-up.
"One for one. I can't complain about that," the West Perth recruit said.
"There was a few times like that [self-doubt]. I've just really got to thank [coach] Alastair Clarkson for sticking fat with me and keeping the faith."
Bailey is seeking a new contract with the Hawks and says he has no plans to bow to the physical demands of the game.
"I'm keen to play on. I want to play for as long as I can because I've missed so much before that," Bailey said.
Hawthorn won the clearances 42-34 in yesterday's grand final at the MCG despite Fremantle's 55-27 dominance of the hit-outs, led by 211-centimetre Aaron Sandilands' 44 taps. David Hale had 11 for the Hawks.
"We came in thinking we probably weren't going to win too many hit-outs so our mids were sweating on their ball and we were able to do it, so you've got to take your hat off to our mids," the 206cm Bailey said.
"Make it predictable for our mids. Where they're hitting, we're going to hit there as well.
"So to be able to force the ball into one area and then sweat on that is a big thing."