How Good Is: Greg Bird
Truth be told, Greg Bird is more suited to the style of rugby league played in the 1970s and 1980s.
Legendary coaches such as Jack Gibson, Warren Ryan and Bob Fulton would have built teams around a player such as Bird. As he is today with the Gold Coast Titans, they probably would have made him captain.
He's not the biggest bloke in the team, neither the quickest or most skilful, but Bird just might be the toughest hombre currently getting around in the NRL.
In an age where talent scouts are more intent on finding athletes and then teaching them to play rugby league, Bird is an out-and-out footballer driven by an unyielding distaste for defeat.
No player at the Titans took more hit-ups (302) or made more metres (2,653) than Bird last season and it his ability to consistently deliver high-energy outputs over the course of an entire 80 minutes that makes him invaluable for coach John Cartwright.
When a patched-up Titans team were going the distance with the Roosters in Round 25 and running short of troops on the bench, Bird was sent into the middle when what he was really looking for was a rest. He played the full 80 minutes that day, ran for 130m, laid on the opening try with a deft cut-out pass for Steve Michaels, and made 24 tackles and three tackle breaks.
To demonstrate his all-round ability, Bird played five-eighth against the Broncos and kicked two goals from as many attempts, and if Cartwright asked him to fill in at hooker, halfback or wing, he'd do that as well.
Even though the Blues suffered another heartbreaking State of Origin Series defeat, it was Bird who was named the state's best and recipient of the Brad Fittler Medal. In 2012 he was named the Country Rugby League Player of the Year for his whole-hearted efforts for Country Origin.
His durability in the course of a season is remarkable and if he chalks up a further 16 games for the Titans in 2014 he'll pass the 200-game milestone in his 12th season in the NRL – and you can bet that he'll do everything in his powers to be on the winning team, whoever he might be playing.
Trademark move: With such an all-round talent as Bird it's hard to pinpoint one 'trademark move' but the way he charges into the line sparks plenty of attacking opportunities for the Titans. Rather than crashing into the defence like a locomotive that has suffered brake failure, Bird charges at defenders and then almost dares them to tackle him. He takes a giant stride as he nears the defensive line and then pushes into the would-be tackler, who is often left reeling and allows Bird to generate second-phase play for his team. If he does have a little more room to move on the left edge, Bird loves nothing more than charging at a wing-centre combination, drawing them in and then releasing his winger with a right-arm offload around the corner.
Key Play of 2013: Like the complete footballer that he is, there is one game – and not just one moment – that typifies the contribution Greg Bird brings to a team. When the Titans travelled to Penrith in Round 4 this year they faced an outfit desperate to assert themselves on home turf. When the Panthers attacked the line early it was Bird who took the hit from decoy runner Sika Manu that led to the try being disallowed. Shortly thereafter, Luke Walsh seemed certain to score under the posts before Bird flew in and knocked the ball from his grasp. Then, after his side had absorbed all that pressure, Bird went down the other end, brushed off five Panthers defenders and scored next to the posts. In that game Bird ran for 155m, made five tackle-breaks, four offloads, 27 tackles and one line-break, and the Titans won 28-10.