Aggressive Shillington catches Titans' eyes
Greg Bird has seen a fire in David Shillington's eyes that the Titans back-rower believes can see the former Raider not only turn back the clock to recapture the form of his representative days but help to fill the void left by Nate Myles.
Watching from the sidelines due to a cut to the cheek that he suffered in the All Stars game, Bird was impressed by how Shillington took it to the likes of Sam and Thomas Burgess in Gold Coast's 22-20 trial loss to the Rabbitohs.
With Myles heading to Manly, the Titans were in desperate need of finding a big man capable of regularly bending the line and 32-year-old Shillington certainly fits the bill.
At 194 centimetres and 112 kilograms, Shillington is the type of presence that the Titans have lacked in recent years, his average running metres of 138.9 metres per game 25 metres more than the best of the Titans forwards (Bird, 113.5 metres).
In five of the last nine rounds of the season Shillington carried the ball for more than 150 metres and averaged more than 50 minutes of game time and Bird said his first-up display against the Rabbitohs was very encouraging.
"I liked what 'Shillo' did," Bird told NRL.com. "It's like he has come into our team with a new lease of life and he was leading with quite a lot of aggression and I like that from Shillo.
"He's a big strong guy and he's played at every level of the game and I'm going to enjoy his experience.
"Losing Nate was a massive loss but we're getting another Queensland and Australian rep in Shillo and I was impressed with the way he played."
A veteran of 11 seasons and more than 200 NRL games, Shillington has also been a positive influence off the field with his work ethic at training.
"He's definitely put his best foot forward, especially with his experience and playing State of Origin and playing for Australia. He's definitely helped a lot of the young fellas," said Josh Hoffman of Shillington's leadership since joining the club in the off-season.
"He's a bit of a quiet achiever Shillo. He gets the job done with his actions and that's good in a way for the young fellas because when they see someone like Shillo doing that, they want to follow him.
"He's certainly put his best foot forward and all the boys are following him."
One of Shillington's other strong suits is his ability to get an offload away, something that was very evident against the Rabbitohs.
Under Neil Henry and John Cartwright previously the Titans have attempted to disrupt opposition teams with regular offloads, ranking in the top five in the NRL in that category in each of the past three years.
Shillington's 33 offloads in 15 games last season was 10 more than the most prolific of the Titans players but Bird knows there will be a period over the first month where the new-look squad gains a better understanding of each other's games.
"Shillo knows that he made a few errors [against South Sydney]," Bird said.
"Some of them may have been able to be prevented by his teammates but I'm sure that side of his game will improve just with more games under his belt.
"It was only a trial match and riddled a little bit with errors but as the season goes and as you get into games, once you've been doing it for a while it doesn't take long to figure when you hold onto it and when you can get rid of them."
Bird also praised the way his back-row partners Chris McQueen and Zeb Taia have settled into the squad, believing there is greater shared experience than in previous years.
"Zeb coming back from France, he's probably been one of the players who has impressed me," said Bird.
"He definitely impressed me the other night with his strong line running and his pretty resolute defence. He's a good talker out on the field too and I think his game's going to help us as well.
"I think now we've got more senior players spread all over the field rather than just in patches which will be of benefit to the team."