Visit to Alex a wake-up call for Greg Bird
HOPEFULLY it has been the emotion-charged publicity surrounding the Rise for Alex weekend that has finally convinced Greg Bird to change his tackling technique.
If it was, it might be a case of too little too late, but at least the 30-year-old has finally heard the warning bells.
Bird is a ferocious competitor and no doubt someone his teammates love having beside them in the field of battle.
He leaves nothing in the tank, plays well above his 183cm, 100kg body, and when he pulls on the jersey he brings a certain aura of fear to a team.
But, as his judiciary record underlines, Greg Bird can be a liability. He has just missed two absolutely vital games for the struggling Titans through his second suspension this season.
This latest judiciary-enforced holiday stemmed from Origin III, when he upended Queensland prop Nate Myles, ironically his co-captain at the Titans. The other irony is that he desperately wanted to play against the Knights yesterday because he is a Newcastle junior and recently revealed his softer side by visiting Alex McKinnon in hospital.
McKinnon, for those unaware, has been hospitalised since March 24 after breaking his neck in a lifting tackle that went tragically wrong. This current NRL round is dedicated to him, with funds raised for his ongoing care.
I expect Bird's hospital visit to McKinnon was during his most recent two-week sabbatical and not before the outrageous statements he made immediately after Origin III when he learned he had been charged with a dangerous throw. Even allowing for the fact the comments were made in the heat of the moment, how Bird was not cited by the NRL for his outburst remains a mystery.
Apart from advocating different rules for Origin and claiming that if a lifted player does not land on his head then the tackle is okay, Bird had a smart-alec message for parents who might be discouraged from allowing their children to take up the sport for which he is paid a motza to play. "Tell them to go play golf or tennis," was his obnoxious retort.
For an NRL club captain, who also represents his state and country, to make such an insensitive comment and not be made accountable is a severe black mark against the NRL and its much-hyped Integrity Unit. But, maybe like his visit to McKinnon's hospital ward, action against Bird was taken under a veil of secrecy.
The upshot is that Bird has finally seen the light and, albeit grudgingly, says he will address his tackling technique. And, optimistically, others will follow suit because despite the much-publicised McKinnon situation, players continue - even this weekend - to roll the dice by making lifting tackles.