James fan of 'crazy' side of Hipgrave
Ryan James is often reminded of Greg Bird when he watches 21-year-old forward Keegan Hipgrave in action, but the Gold Coast Titans captain excelled himself when he described the similarities of the pair on Saturday night.
"They get this glassy look in their eyes, something turns in their head and they just get crazy," James grinned after the Titans' 20-14 loss to the Warriors on the Sunshine Coast.
Hipgrave was the most aggressive forward on the field in the clash. Each time he made a tackle or a run you couldn't miss the energy and intent he brought to the task.
He made his Telstra Premiership debut in round 26 last year, put a shoulder charge on Jake Friend, was duly suspended and will miss the round one Telstra Premiership clash with the Raiders.
There is a sense that the red mist descends on Hipgrave as soon as he takes the field and he turns into the ultra-competitve beast that was Bird in his pomp.
"With Keegan, I've never been more excited to play alongside any player other than Birdy," James told NRL.com
"They are very similar players with their enthusiasm.
"We went to school together at Palm Beach Currumbin High and I watched him go away [to the Broncos] and now I'm just glad that he's back.
"He is extremely aggressive and he knows how to work over people, and you need those players.
"He is pretty much a Greg Bird clone. He may not have the same ball skills but just in the way that he carries himself.
"Keegan is a young player but he is still not afraid to talk out there either, which is good."
Hipgrave told NRL.com he was determined to make a statement in his stint on the park, knowing that he would miss round one.
It was a reminder to coach Garth Brennan of what he has to offer.
"This was my last chance to show Garth what I can do before round two," he said.
"I hope I proved a point while I was out there.
"I've just kept my head down and trained aggressive and played aggressive. Hopefully that is what Garth wants."
Hipgrave said James was one of his mentors and an inspirational figure at the club.
"I have always looked up to Ryan and I've stuck with him through the pre-season and watched closely what he does," Hipgrave said.
"If I can feed off what he does that is only going to help my own game."
Brennan noted the intent of Hipgrave, and said he set an example for the rest of the squad to follow.
"That's probably what we lacked a little bit, a little bit of intent and aggressiveness from our defensive line," Brennan said.
"Whether that was because it was a trial match or not I'm not sure, but I thought Keegan brought that in spades when he came on.
"He was a handful [in attack] and he is only young with a lot of improvement in him. That is some of the bright sides of the Gold Coast Titans going forward, that we've got some young guys like that."