|Caught in the headlights, Greg Bird. |
Photo: NRL Photos. Source: NRL.com
The Titans have had their woes over the last few years; many self inflicted, and that was no more evident than during the week when it was revealed by News Limited that the Titans Football Manager had forged the signature of gun-centre, James Roberts, on a playing contract. While forging the signature isn’t the worst the thing in the world; it probably happens all the time and the contract was agreed on, the self-inflicted pain the Titans continue to inflict on themselves whilst trying to re-establish a connection with the local region, and rebuild their brand as a whole, is ridiculous. Without doubt the best player in the Titans’ squad, putting Roberts’ contract at risk, when he has probably agreed to play at a fair price considering he was taken on board by the Titans when his career was hanging by a thread, is mind boggling. The bloke is a potential superstar, and will likely play for New South Wales and Australia next season if this year’s form continues.
The contract saga is not the only issue that has enveloped at the club in recent times, with the cocaine controversy of last year which had half-a-dozen top line players in the headlines proving a nightmare for CEO, Graham Ansley. An embarrassing blight on the game, the issue bobbled along with players suspended from playing at the start of the 2015 season to fronting up to courtrooms throughout the year. No player was more under the spotlight than Captain, Greg Bird, who had only recently had his own wedding embroiled in controversy. Whilst celebrating the day after his wedding, Bird was caught urinating on or near a police car. The police issued him with an infringement, and the Titans eventually stripped him of the side’s captaincy role.
While taking a piss in public isn’t that bad, again it’s the self infliction on the Titans brand that made Bird’s leak that much worse. While the drugs charges for Bird were eventually dismissed, the bubbling of off-field issues related to the back-rower have continued to dominate in the last 18 months. The cocaine-contreversy just shows the laid-back attitude and un-prioritised culture that has set-in at the club, and it’s hard not to suggest Bird’s attitude is at the heart of it.
One of the fiercest competitors in the game, Bird can easily change the swing of a game with his no-holds-barred approach. But all too often Bird is penalized, giving away vital possession, or caught up in something illegal on the field that puts him out with a suspension for a couple of weeks. Bird’s ability and approach makes him a natural leader in a Rugby League team, and you get the feeling he has the genuine capability of influencing those around him. He’s almost a throwback to another era, one the last remaining old-school footballers. You just can’t get the image out of your head of him holding a frothing can of VB if you imagine him in the sheds after a game.
But that doesn’t mean he can’t excel. When Bird first returned to the NRL after his stint in the English Super League with Catalans Dragons, he had something to prove. He owed the game of Rugby League, he owed the Titans, he owed his family, and importantly, he owed himself. Sent to south of France because of the case involving the glassing of his girlfriend, Bird was painted in a terrible light, and the smear was wiped over a game that was trying to rebuild its own overall image at the time.
Bird now finds himself in a similar position. He has something to prove. He has his own character at question, he has his true commitment to the Titans under a cloud, he has his own and his family’s name to improve. Realistically, this is Bird’s last chance at the Titans and it’s hard to see him playing anywhere else in his career at 31 years of age, but that will be a reality if bird doesn’t focus on the results that count next season.
With the opportunity to drag a struggling franchise out of the mud, and the chance to restore his own reputation, undoubtedly this is Greg Bird’s career-defining challenge. After missing the entire State of Origin season in 2015 and with the Titans finishing just win away from collecting the wooden spoon, Bird should be fueled with hunger for 2016. He is the one to lead the Titans back into Rugby League respectability; he can change the culture, he can influence those around him, and he can provide a relentless get-out-of-my-way style of play that not many others in the game can offer.
He can only do those things though, if he chooses to. If he feels the need to prove the point.