Fit, fresh and desperate to prove a point.
Gold Coast back-rower Greg Bird’s imminent return to NRL action from an eight-game ban can’t come soon enough for both club and player.
As NSW coach Laurie Daley was naming an unchanged team on Tuesday for the State of Origin series decider, Bird was signing autographs and posing for photos at a Titans’ school holiday clinic on the Gold Coast.
Taking time to meet with 450 eager young fans is hardly the worst chore for Bird, but you know he’d dearly love to have foregone the club commitment to be in Sydney with his Blues teammates.
Sidelined since early May after copping an eight-game ban for a dangerous throw, Bird’s time in rugby league purgatory is nearing an end.
The final game of the 31-year-old’s suspension will be the Titans’ round-18 clash against Manly on July 13 that follows this round’s bye.
Titans coach Neil Henry fully expects the NSW and Australia representative to be straight back into the team for the following week’s trip to play Newcastle.
“We’ve certainly been missing him and welcome him back,” Henry said.
“He’s been very good and motivated at training.
“I’m happy with how he’s stayed focused. Particularly with it being a disappointment for him during Origin period that he’s not involved. He’s been going along to their camps and we’ve been releasing him to do that sort of stuff so hopefully we’ll see a fit and refreshed Greg Bird ready to contribute and hopefully we’re some chance of playing finals footy by the time he gets back.”
The bye is more welcome news for Henry, with the chance to shorten a lengthy injury list.
Henry says hooker Beau Falloon (wrist), forward Ryan James (shoulder) and rookie halfback Kane Elgey (ankle) could all make a return against the Sea Eagles.