As the Cronulla side prepares to enter the finals series and attempt secure their maiden premiership, Bird’s manager, Gavin Orr, and legal representative Andrew O’Brien held talks with David Gallop yesterday to push the cash for Greg Bird and a possible return to the field to be part of the semi-finals. Central to their discussions, was the fact that Greg Bird has not yet been convicted of anything and is prematurely being punished.
“We asked why there should be special circumstances for a footy player,” O’Brien said. “We believe Greg deserves the benefit of the doubt. He is innocent until it is proven otherwise.”
Neither David Gallop or the Sharks were prepared to back-down on their hard line towards Bird.
Gallop confirmed the NRL stance on the matter and reiterated they will stand behind the Sharks banning decision 100%, with Cronulla chief executive Tony Zappia said last night: “Until further information is provided by police the club has no intention to review the decision. The club has not been made aware of what did or did not occur by either Greg or the alleged victim.”
Gallop also spoke at length with Sharks coach Ricky Stuart, with Stuart adding that the player’s attempted return was not a decision made by him or the Sharks club.
“I spoke to Ricky Stuart, and he agrees with the position as it stands as well,” Gallop said. “He [Orr] seemed to be under the misapprehension that the decision to stand Greg Bird down was made by the NRL. I advised him it was the Sharks’ decision but it had our full support.
“The fact is the various matters are still very much in the hands of police â€¦”
It is understood one of the key reasons the Sharks do not want to play Bird is pressure from major sponsor LG Electronics, which is embarrassed by the adverse publicity the incident has generated.
There is no suggestion the Sharks are behind this last-ditch push to have Bird feature in the finals, starting with tomorrow night’s qualifying final against the Raiders at Toyota Stadium.
While Bird watches from the sidelines, other NRL players have been allowed to play despite facing serious police charges.
Warriors winger Michael Crockett has not been banned from playing while he defends himself against sexual assault allegations. And Bird’s teammate, Ben Pomeroy, has been allowed to continue playing while defending allegations he assaulted a 24-year-old man at a concert of American band Korn at the Sydney Entertainment Centre in April still before the courts.
“There is no black-and-white rule about these situations,” Gallop said. “Clubs have to weigh up the circumstances and in particular look at the extent to which there are facts in dispute.”
Bird has not played since being charged with maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm on Milligan at his Cronulla unit on August 24.
He is due to face court on October 8. He is also due to face court in relation to an incident involving a 20-year-old woman at a Cronulla nightclub in January.