Greg Bird's big week
Rugged Titans forward Greg Bird was in the middle of everything on Sunday, back home on his old stomping ground at Cronulla, but it shouldn't come as a surprise.
A player who's always sailed close to the wind, Bird was fired up for a big game against his old club while also riding the emotional high of becoming a first-time father just days earlier.
After the game he joked that the away trip had handed him his first full night's sleep since he and partner Becky welcomed daughter Finley Elise Bird into the world four days earlier.
But his baby daughter wasn't front of mind when the Blues hardman was hurling himself into Sharks players, inadvertently causing concussions along with forcing errors and generally making a nuisance of himself.
Close mate James Maloney laughed off the 17th-minute hit from Bird that ended his match early and while opposition coach Shane Flanagan wasn't impressed with a shot on fullback Ben Barba, it earned his side possession at a key juncture.
"You always want to play good games against your old club," Bird reflected after the narrow 25-20 loss.
"So many years spent out here, it's where it all began for me really. I wanted to come out here and put a good performance in. Disappointed with the result."
Like his coach he bemoaned another slow start by his team that, while they've been competitive in every game they've played with three wins and three losses, is currently lacking the polish to make them a genuine threat.
"We stick in the battle and work our tails off to stay in the contest, but we're shooting ourselves in the foot with our starts," Bird said.
"It's been the same the last couple of weeks. We come back, we weren't able to win today, but other weeks we get the two points. We've just got to definitely improve that area of our game."
Despite his busy outing on the field, Bird still had some time to banter with the crowd.
"I've got a few mates here and they were getting a bit lippy," he laughed.
"I could see them over the fence – they were getting the crowd going. This is where it all began for me, I played eight years here and loved every minute of it. I don't mind the crowd. If the crowd are behind you, you love it, but if they're against you, that's the way it is. You'd rather them be loud than not say anything at all.
"It's good fun. It was an eventful afternoon. Just disappointed we couldn't get the win. It would've been good after the week I had."
The ice bath treatments in the Cronulla sheds would have attested to the fact that fatherhood has done little to soften the Maitland product's on-field approach but the former Shark said the change had been as big as everyone had told him it would be.
"It's exciting, being 32 ("he's actually still 31", Titans media manager Neil Cadigan correctly noted after the interview), seeing so many teammates go through this over the years and think nothing of it.
"When it's your own, it's the be-all and end-all. It's your world. It seems cliché – hearing other blokes say it, I think 'whatever, it's just a kid'. But when it's your own, it puts things into perspective. It's definitely a game-changer."
Of his on-field form, Bird said he was reasonably happy and definitely still had the fire burning to return to the representative arena after a long suspension for a lifting tackle in last year's Trans-Tasman Test rubbed him out of the entire Origin series.
"I love playing rep football. I love representing with the best and against the best," Bird said.
"Hopefully form warrants selection but at the end of the day all I can focus on is playing good for the Titans and hopefully the rest takes cares of itself."