SAM Cross is old enough to know not to take anything for granted.
Cross, 29, was the hard-luck story of last year's finals campaign after he injured his knee and missed finals including the decider.
A match-winner when in full-flight, Thurgoona sorely missed his pin-point delivery and goalkicking nous in the grand final - losing to Kiewa Sandy Creek by 38-points.
Cross said last year's setback had fuelled his desire to win a third flag with the Bulldogs.
"Definitely missing out on last year, it does make you that little bit hungrier for success," Cross said.
"But it's just not me.
"All the boys want to avenge last year's defeat.
"I've noticed everyone is definitely a lot hungrier."
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For the past three years Cross has been rarely able to train during the week with his employment at Joss Constructions requiring him to work away.
But this season he has benefited from training on a consistent basis.
"I feel I've had a fairly consistent season," he said.
"I had a bit of a setback when I hurt my knee.
"It was nothing major, just a bit of meniscus damage and general soreness.
"I had a month off in June but I haven't had any dramas since."
The stint on the sidelines has cost him a milestone.
Cross will play his 99th match for the Bulldogs in the decider after crossing to the kennel from Albury in 2014.
The Bulldogs will start a raging favourite against Barnawartha after notching three comprehensive victories so far this season.
The Tigers proved no match for the Bulldogs in the second semi-final a fortnight ago, trailing by 47 points at the last change before eventually losing by 31.
They rebounded strongly last weekend with an impressive 32 point victory against reigning premier Kiewa-Sandy Creek.
Cross was an interested onlooker and walked away thinking the Tigers remain a dangerous proposition at full-strength.
"Barny impressed me to be honest," he said.
"They got a few back in Tom Anson and Connor Wiffen and were full-strength for one of the rare times.
"We are fully aware they were nursing some sore bodies last time we played them.
"They looked to be moving a lot better on the weekend, especially Cameron McNeill.
"It didn't look to be too bruising an encounter, so I expect Barny to be a lot fitter and fresher on Saturday."
Cross said complacency wouldn't be an issue at the kennel.
"We know we haven't played them at full-strength," he said.
"There's little doubt they will be a tough nut to crack on Saturday. We'll need to be at our best."