Dugan's advice keeps Bird on right path
They never had the opportunity to play alongside one another in the NRL but Sharks five-eighth Jack Bird still holds great importance in the advice handed down to him by Josh Dugan, with the two becoming great mates in their time at the Dragons together.
At the time of Dugan's Red V arrival in 2013 – after his Raiders contract was terminated for a string of off-field indiscretions – Bird was the star rookie coming through the ranks.
With the two not knowing many others in the Dragons' top squad they quickly formed a bond, and while they don't see each other as much anymore, Bird still recalls the one bit of advice Dugan was able to pass on to him.
"He has told me if you're going to get in trouble you're going to live with it for the rest of your life," Bird said.
"He was sacked from the Raiders and he got a lifeline there at the Dragons so his career was nearly over.
"I just have to take that under my belt and learn from his mistakes I guess."
With Bird admitting he is a careful drinker, with his rheumatoid arthritis medication able to impact his liver, the 20-year-old was grateful to see how far Dugan has come in recent seasons.
"He's really pulled his head in and pulled his socks up, so he's going really well and staying out of trouble," Bird said.
"Ever since then it's been unreal. Duges is doing great for himself and he's a great player and a better bloke.
"Just hanging around him and seeing what he does and the way he carries himself – he's not arrogant or anything like that – he's polite and nice to the fans."
It's Bird's level-headiness which has him primed for not only a huge game against the Sea Eagles on Sunday, but the finals series which lies ahead.
With Cronulla shooting for a top four berth this weekend, Bird is adamant he is ready in both a mental and physical sense ahead of the final month of the season.
"It's going to be a big moment for me because it's my first year obviously and the first finals series for myself. But I think once it comes I'll be a bit calmer and it'll become sweeter," Bird said.
"100 per cent [the finals have come one week early] I don't think Manly are playing for much because I don't think they can make the eight.
"It's really necessary for us to win this week because we go in the top four. If we lose you can see us back down at seventh so it's a crucial time for us and we need to win."
With one hand on the Dally M Rookie of the Year trophy already, Bird talked down his chances of securing one of the game's great honours.
"I'm not really looking and it's not on my mind to get rookie of the year," he said.
"I'm just coming out here to play the best footy I can for the team as well as trying to steer the team to a premiership."