There’s a common saying familiar to those who have visited Vietnam – “same, same … but different.”
It could be used for how Aquis Titans enforcer Greg Bird has approached tonight’s State of Origin I clash at ANZ Stadium, Sydney.
It’s Birdy’s 17th Origin appearance for the Blues. He’s just as passionate as ever about his role, which won’t change, and he says Origin camp has been similar to the seven he has been involved in except for a few new faces.
He has won six of his 16 Origin games, won two man of the match awards – at five-eighth in his second and third appearances – yet won just one series; his last.
His attitude, and preparation, doesn’t waver, he says.
He also knows, as usual, how important victory is in Game One of the series. The winner of the first game has won the series in nine of the past 10 years. Bird was on the negative side of the one exception in 2013 when his Blues won the opener at ANZ but Queensland came from behind to win the trophy.
“It’s obviously important to win the first one at home as we have two games in Sydney this year but it doesn’t always work that way,” he said, “the job still has to be done even if you get the advantage in the first game, as we found out in ’13.
After missing all of last year’s series because of a Test match suspension, when he lost the opportunity to defend a series for the first time since his debut off the bench in round two of 2007, and being overlooked for the Australian team in April, Birdy feels extra fortunate at age 32 that he has this chance on the big stage again tonight.
“You always feel privileged to play Origin, it’s the pinnacle of rugby league for me,” he said.
“But it’s great to be back in the team this time after missing last year. It would have been easy for me to be moved on but I feel fortunate Laurie [Daley] thinks I have something still to offer. I don’t want to let him and the team down.
“There’s always a lot emotion around Origin. It’s the biggest stage. I don’t feel any extra pressure; I just love the atmosphere and who and what you’re playing for. And you spend over a week with the other blokes getting ready to play the biggest test of your life.
“That never changes. But after not being there last year … I’m just taking it in a bit more.”
Where there is a change in Greg Bird and his build up this week is that he is now a father. And he was glowing when he had a break from the focus and intensity of Origin camp yesterday to catch up with wife Becky and two-month-old daughter Finley over breakfast and a luncheon put on for the players’ partners at the stadium.
“It was really good to catch up with my girls after being around the boys only all week,” he laughed.
“Becky actually stayed at Nate Myles’ place with Tessa the night before, so she was flirting with the enemy.
“It’s a great initiative to have the partners in because they are a big part of our lives and what we achieve with their support and being there during the ups and down. Coming home to Finley certainly puts a different perspective on my footy.
“This is my first Origin as a father which is new … but once I get out there, nothing changes.
“That’s Origin. You know what sort of a challenge it is, every single time.
Ï can’t wait.”
And we know what we’ll get from Greg Bird in a blue jersey every time as well.