The Roar
The Roar



Bird brain: Jack says sorry for 'fans don't know much about footy' sledge but horse has already bolted

10th May, 2023
Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
10th May, 2023
2009 Reads

Oh no, Birdy. You didn’t. 

When you get paid large sums of money to play sport, the first unwritten rule you should never break is don’t sledge your own fans. Ever. 

Have you met the St George Illawarra supporters? They’re a rather passionate bunch. 

You’re from the area, a local junior, you’ve grown up among their kind and you should know this mob does not muck around. 

CLICK HERE for a seven-day free trial for your favourite sport on KAYO

Pretty much they have campaigned for every Dragons coach in recent memory apart from premiership messiah Wayne Bennett to get the flick at one stage or another. The Oust Doust campaigns they ran with banners and hashtags in the real and virtual worlds? This should ring a bell.

WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 17: Jack Bird of the Dragons hands out Easter eggs to the kids after the round six NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Newcastle Knights at WIN Stadium, on April 17, 2022, in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Jack Bird. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Talk of online petitions and protests at the ground to say Anthony Griffin’s time is up is hardly a federal offence. 


Stick up for your coach, by all means, if you think that’s going to do any good. 

However, his comments on Wednesday that “fans don’t really know too much about footy” are going to do nothing but throw unnecessary fuel on the flames. These diehards are the ones who buy the tickets, memberships and merchandise that help keep the club in a relatively stable financial state. This hand that feeds you, don’t bite it.

And there’s a fair chance you’re now going to be targeted with boos by your own team’s fans when the Dragons try to end their five-game losing streak against the Cowboys in Townsville on Saturday night. Or by the ones who bother to turn up next week at Kogarah for the Roosters game, protesting or otherwise.

“They’ve got a lot to say,” Bird said in his diatribe against the fans. 

“I don’t think they have ever played a game of footy. I am just speaking from first-hand stuff I have been copping. I feel sorry for Hook. It is us out there playing so we should be the ones (the fans) are baying for.”

Oh, they are. And they will be. 

At least it wasn’t the dopiest thing a footy player called Bird has said at a media conference – it will be almost impossible to beat Greg Bird’s “it put a dampener on the weekend” quote when talking about being fined for urinating near a police car the day after his wedding in Byron Bay in 2014.


This latest unrelated Bird trotting out the old “the fans have never played the game so who cares what they think” routine is not the brightest idea. 

Whether the supporters have laced on a boot at any level is irrelevant. What is relevant is that they are the ones who pay to get into the ground, not get paid lucrative contracts like players such as Bird. 

What matters more is that they sit there, literally in rain, hail or shine, to cheer on the team they love, following them to stadiums at all points of the NRL compass. The hill at Kogarah and Wollongong is a lovely place to be when the sun is shining but it isn’t always sunny in St George Illawarra. 

Just like you, your teammates, the media and everyone else, the fans are entitled to their opinion as long as they aren’t abusive. 

And the message they’re delivering has been obvious to all and sundry for months – the Griffin signing has been a disaster for the Dragons. Over the past three years the club has shown little improvement, there have been no impactful recruits and the development of several of the younger prospects has been haphazard at best.

“If we won the last five weeks, Hook’s not in question for his job,” Bird added. “It is on us really. It is not on him. If we win games coaches don’t get sacked.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 28: Dragons head coach Anthony Griffin looks on during the round 24 NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the St George Illawarra Dragons at CommBank Stadium, on August 28, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Dragons head coach Anthony Griffin. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)


“He is not the one out there playing. It is us. It will be good to get a win for him that’s for sure, before we get to Sydney. I can’t really speak too much on that (coaching future) kind of stuff because I don’t know what is going on behind the scenes.”

Bird has subsequently issued an apology, telling the Sydney Morning Herald that he was flustered and said the wrong thing while the media’s cameras and microphones were shoved in his face during the kind of scrum he does not prefer.

“I want to say sorry to the fans for upsetting them,” Bird said. “In no way, shape or form did I mean to make comments coming at the fans personally, I was just trying to stick up for my coach. What I said is not what I meant, I just wanted to clarify it. It came out the wrong way, I got tripped up a bit in the way I expressed myself, I didn’t mean it in that way.

““I love the fans, they are a part of the game and that’s why I play it. They pay their hard-earned money to come to the games. In no way, shape or form am I attacking them personally because I respect the fans and everything they do for the game. Without the fans, there is no game.”

It was good of him to express remorse but the horse was already bolted. Even if he was flustered and stumbled with his words, the sneering way in which he initially delivered them will make it hard for many fans to forgive or forget.

And there’s nothing wrong with a player sticking up for their coach, it shows that Griffin at least still has some support within the club and hasn’t lost the dressing room despite their 2-7 start to the year.

But it’s time for a quick history lesson now, Birdy – coaches get sacked in team sports like the NRL when a club goes poorly because it’s much easier than replacing a 30-man roster. 


It’s a survival of the fittest environment – this is Griffin’s third crack of the whip and in all likelihood will be his last at this level. 

To be fair to Bird with his initial comments, he did add some context after returning serve to the fans about the importance of being measured in criticism in this era of heightened awareness around mental health.

“People don’t know what people are going through these days. Hook could be struggling or any player could be struggling outside of footy, and the people come on social media and give you a gobful,” he said.

“That might be the part where they push you over the edge. That’s fans for you.”

He also denied reports that he was looking to jump from the sinking ship – the 28-year-old back-rower is contracted to St George Illawarra until the end of 2025, although his quotes are not iron-clad 

“I signed last year here for another two years and at the moment I am staying here,” he said. “My future is tied here.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 12: Jack Bird of the Dragons is tackled during the round two NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Gold Coast Titans at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on March 12, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Jack Bird. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)


“I am willing to turn things around here. That’s what I want to do. I want to start winning games, and that’s going to be here.”

The reality is that this team doesn’t look like winning anytime soon. Not only are the Dragons now at double the Tigers for the worst odds to win the title at 250-1, they have overtaken last year’s wooden spooners as the team most likely to finish last in 2023. 

With Storm coach Craig Bellamy likely to announce next week that he is staying on for another season and Roosters assistant Jason Ryles having already met with Dragons officials about taking over in 2024, it won’t be long before club powerbrokers announce they are “heading in a new direction” after “parting ways” with Griffin “by mutual consent”. 

If the Dragons make it six losses on the trot this Saturday against the Cowboys, there might not even be a need for the fans to protest next week anyway because the coach could be gone anyway. 

Whether Bird and the players like it or not, they’re entitled to their opinion. 

And there is no one more deserving of the right to vent their spleen than the devoted few who have religiously watched this rabble in recent seasons despite having very little to cheer about or much faith that Dragons management will turn the club’s fortunes around.
with AAP