The NRL’s ambitious push to emerge from the COVID-19 shutdown has paid off after attracting its biggest television audience for a regular-season game in more than six years.
Brisbane star Jack Bird admits he feels as if his “whole world has come crumbling down” after cruelly suffering a second ACL tear in as many years.
Broncos medical staff said the 24-year-old fullback was likely to have knee surgery after scans confirmed their worst fears following a non-contact injury sustained in training on Wednesday, just days before the club’s NRL season opener with North Queensland.
Former NSW player Bird has battled back to career-best fitness, earning first shot at the No.1 jersey in Friday’s derby clash, but this latest setback has left him, in his own words, “heartbroken”.
Posting on Instagram, he said on Wednesday: “I honestly don’t know what to say… it’s like my whole world has come crumbling down.
“I started my day confident, happy and full of excitement knowing that Round 1 was just two days away.
“My body was in the best shape it had been in the last three years. It was also the happiest I have been in two or three years, enjoying my footy and life again.
“People who know me know how hard I have worked to get to the stage I was at leading into this season, and with that, I’m truly heartbroken that I have to start this process all over again.”
Bird felt compelled to apologise to Broncos supporters for his latest injury blow.
“I understand that a lot of fans are upset with me over the last few seasons but injuries are definitely something I can’t control. I pray that you guys stick by me through this tough period of my life,” he said.
“I promise I’ll do everything I can to get back on the pitch for not only my self but for the club and the fans.”
Broncos coach Anthony Seibold had been full of praise for Bird over his fight back to fitness before Wednesday’s new setback.
“Rugby league is a cruel game sometimes,” Seibold said in a statement after scans confirmed the devastating news.
“Jack’s commitment to his rehabilitation has been unwavering in his return from his last knee injury.
“He has had a tremendous pre-season and ticked all the boxes required for a great start to the year.
“All of his teammates and the staff at the Broncos are devastated at the timing and nature of the injury.”
Bird has been no stranger to injury, restricted to just 17 matches since moving from Cronulla to Red Hill before the 2018 season.
Yet the latest blow appeared to be the cruellest for Bird, and the Broncos.
“He’s really important to us. In some ways he is like a new recruit for us,” Seibold said before Wednesday’s session.
“The thing I like about Bird is that he has been resilient over the rehab process and had a hell of a pre-season.
“It is a well deserved (No.1) jersey for Birdy and all the hard work that he has done.”