Amid reports of a fan-organised protest at St George Illawarra's next home game, Dragons star Jack Bird may have thrown a little fuel on the fire after he was asked about it by reporters. Bird said on Wednesday that fans 'didn’t know too much about footy' when asked about the potential fan protest, before apologising and expanding further on the point he was trying to make in a follow-up interview with the Sydney Morning Herald.
Fan frustration surrounding the Dragons' season appears to have reached a breaking point for supporters, however it remains to be seen if the planned protest will go ahead. In the meantime, NRL observers reacted with some degree of shock over Bird's comments.
“They’ve got a lot to say about people on the field. I don’t think they’ve ever played a game of footy," Bird told reporters on Wednesday. “I’m speaking from first-hand stuff that I’ve copped.
"I feel sorry for (coach Anthony Griffin). It’s us out there playing so we should be the ones to blame. Fans are good for the game and stuff like that, but it comes to a point where you can’t cop so much criticism over the players and coaching staff.”
"Fans don't really know too much about footy"
Jack Bird takes aim at Dragons fans amid reports of a protest being planned over their 2-7 start to the season
Get more #NRL news on ch500 & 602 @FOXNRL @FOXSportsAUS https://t.co/lI6iDhiPHG pic.twitter.com/dRvwJgdMtW
— FOX SPORTS News (@FOXSportsNews) May 10, 2023
Several NRL observers were stunned by the comments, with Braith Anasta suggesting they were indicative of the 'frustration' within the Dragons camp on NRL 360. Paul Kent suggested Bird's comments had 'lost a lot of fans', while James Hopper added that Bird would likely rephrase those comments if he had the opportunity.
Bird had also hinted that Griffin had not just been battling with the pressure of being an NRL head coach and the resultant expectations, suggesting there may be other personal struggles the veteran head coach has been enduring. He apologised for his earlier comments in a new interview published on Thursday morning, saying 'in no way, shape or form did I mean to make comments coming at the fans personally' and that he had intended to defend Griffin from criticism.
“What I said is not what I meant, I just wanted to clarify it," Bird told the SMH in his follow-up interview. "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 just want to clear everything up. Hook is not just my coach, he’s my friend as well.
“When you have a coach, you always try to back them, no matter what. He’s obviously under a lot of pressure and I don’t want to dog my own coach or see other people talk s**t about him. I was just sticking up for him.”
NRL observers stunned by Jack Bird fan comments
Nevertheless, the criticism of Bird's earlier comments stuck. Anasta said they might have been forgivable coming from a less experienced player, but not someone with Bird's 138 games of NRL experience.
“Jack’s an experienced player so I’m a bit surprised by that,” he said. “It shows the frustration within the camp and the players.
“From a rookie player, I’d expect something like those comments … because they haven’t learned. When you come into the game as a rookie, you don’t understand how it all works. You’ve got the fans, you’ve got the media — you can forgive them.
"I can’t believe he’s made those comments given the amount of games he’s played and how long he’s been involved in the game.”
Co-host Kent had some degree of sympathy for the point Bird had been trying to make, but said the onus rested with clubs and players to bring their fans along - good times or bad.
“He’s probably just lost a lot of fans there with that comment,” Kent said. “The fans are passionate and they do have their view on a lot of things.
“To Jack’s point, they probably don’t know what’s going on in the inner workings but part of that is the problem for the people within the club for not actually sharing that and explaining that to the people. They do a poor job of explaining what’s actually going on.”
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.