Greg Bird has found himself in a bit of off-field trouble again, and predictably the knives are out for the Gold Coast, NSW and Australian star.
Bird, celebrating in Byron Bay a day after his wedding to Becky Rochow in the northern NSW town, was busted for allegedly urinating on a police car and subsequently given an infringement notice and a small fine.
He has since offered a sincere and contrite apology for the incident, while also vigorously denying relieving himself on the police car – he maintains that he went in between two cars.
Now, apparently, the Titans are under pressure to relieve Bird of the club captaincy he shares with Nate Myles, while insufferable Daily Telegraph windbag Phil Rothfield has declared he needs to be heavily fined after ‘damaging the image of the Titans and the NRL’.
I think this incident needs to be put in perspective.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a Bird sympathiser. He’s one of the NRL’s most valuable and dynamic players: tough, hardworking, a hurtful defender and a gifted ball-player with a handy kicking game. But as a Queensland supporter and a New Zealander, I find his niggly tactics and histrionics when things don’t go his way on the field for the Blues and Kangaroos infuriating.
It’s not ideal for the NRL or the Gold Coast club to have to deal with, but to compare this most minor of alcohol-related offences with the spate of drink-driving incidents, domestic assaults, nightclub snafus, and whatever category you’d file what Todd Carney did, that continue to plague the code is ludicrous.
It is barely worth the NRL Integrity Unit’s time in investigating – he’ll cop an additional fine from the Titans, who will issue a statement declaring how disappointed they are but that Bird is remorseful, and that should be the end of the matter. Case closed.
Anyone that is honestly shocked or offended by Bird taking an alfresco leak is beyond help, and those looking to use this incident as a vehicle to lump all league players into the ‘drunken boofhead’ box need to get a life.
The meagre $200 fine he picked up from Byron Bay police station gives a far more accurate impression of how minor Bird’s transgression was.
Bird’s name has been stained for perpetuity after he was very nearly jailed for the alleged glassing of his then-girlfriend Katie Milligan. That was among the worst off-field debacles of the NRL era, but Bird has kept his nose clean since and should be held up as an example of a player being able turn it all around when many bemoan the likes of Carney, Blake Ferguson et al. being given multiple second chances.
The 2008 incident involving Bird and Milligan has been dredged up after this recent indiscretion, but it would be farcical if his Byron mishap undid any of the goodwill he’s built up in the six years since.
Alcohol abuse is one of the most pressing and damaging issues facing the NRL, and sport in Australia in general, there’s no doubt about that. But to include Bird in the list of 2014 atrocities is unbalanced and unfair.
Bird’s wallet will take a hit, but that’s all he deserves.