Bird's pain shapes as Titans' gain
The pain of his Origin omission still lingers but even Greg Bird acknowledges that a much-needed break has put him in an excellent position to lead the Titans into the finals for the first time since 2010.
The 32-year-old's preference would have been to spend the past 10 days in camp with the New South Wales team preparing for Game Three on Wednesday night but instead he has taken advantage of Gold Coast's bye to spend time with his wife and baby daughter and freshen up mentally and physically for the run home.
That run for the Titans starts on Friday night with a crucial clash against the eighth-placed Dragons at UOW Jubilee Oval in Sydney where they will be bolstered by the inclusion of Bird, David Mead, Ashley Taylor and Konrad Hurrell.
Refusing to concede that his representative career may be over, Bird said that the only way to win back a Blues jersey in 2017 is to finish the season off strongly with the Titans.
"It's good for the Titans but not great for me personally," Bird said of missing Origin III.
"I am fresh coming into the Friday night game. If I was playing [for NSW] I wouldn't be even playing this game.
"Having three matches in 10 days for the first game does knock the body around but having the week off to freshen up, I'm really raring to go for the last eight games that are left.
"You've just got to go out and earn your position back, that's all there is to do.
"They have said that they're going to make a change for younger players to come in but if you're good enough you're old enough – or young enough – so hopefully I can let my footy do the talking next year and fight my way back."
Gold Coast coach Neil Henry doesn't just see the short-term benefits of Bird's layoff but believes it will help him to deliver for the team as they push for a finals berth.
On top of the physical toll players often speak of the emotional toll taken by an Origin series and Henry sees plenty of benefits for the Titans in Bird having the time away from football that he has enjoyed of late.
"He should be fresh enough to get out there and rip in," Henry said.
"I know that he's enjoyed his time off, we've had a five-day break to spend time with his wife and their new daughter so he's certainly enjoyed that and freshened up.
"It's an emotional high and low with Origin depending on results and when you're doing that you're not having a break from footy.
"Even though the camps mightn't be that taxing you are still focused on football so he's got that break and hopefully it works in our favour. I'm sure it will, he'll be fresh and mentally fresh as well and ready to go.
"He knows he needs to contribute on a consistent basis to the team and he's a big part of what we do."
Currently two competition points behind the Dragons but with a superior points differential, the Titans are positioned well enough and have a decent enough draw to make a mockery of pre-season predictions that they would be wooden spooners and finish in the top half of the Telstra Premiership.
They play the Eels, Warriors, Panthers, Knights and Wests Tigers in the run home but Bird said their task will be made much easier if they can start with a win against St George Illawarra this weekend.
"Now comes the crunch time. We need to make sure we're winning these games, especially against the teams that are in the same circumstance as us and close to us on the ladder," Bird said.
"As you get a little bit later with two or three games to go you start really evaluating where you are on the board. We're sitting two points away at the moment, that's all I'm focused on.
"We get a win and we start stringing a couple together we earn our way into the eight and then hopefully go into the semis with a bit of momentum behind us.
"We see ourselves as a top eight team and now we've got an opportunity to prove it."