Rugby: Bird feeding off advice from father

By Shane Hurndell

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John Bird and dog Tom have a breather after another hectic day at the farm. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
John Bird and dog Tom have a breather after another hectic day at the farm. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Former Magpie John Bird has lost count of the kilometres he has clocked up supporting his All Black son and netballing daughters in their respective codes.

Under normal circumstances one could expect to find Bird among the spectators at Sydney's Olympic Stadium tonight when son Dominic's Crusaders team take on the Waratahs in his first Super Rugby final. However, when one is a sheep and beef farmer in Central Hawke's Bay, as is the case with Bird, there are other priorities just now ... lambing in particular.

"I was keen to go but with the workload on the farm I had to give this one a miss. Dominic isn't too worried as there is plenty of rugby to come," Bird said after checking on the latest additions to his lamb tally on his 161.8-hectare farm.

Bird, 52, who played 82 first-class games for the Magpies from 1981 until 1992, said his pre-final speech to his son last night didn't divert from his regular one.

"I told Dominic to carry on doing what he is doing. I stressed the three A's which were always my motto when I was coaching ... Aggression, a little bit of Arrogance and lots of Accuracy," Bird said.

A former lock, the same position his son plays, Bird said it was crucial his son focus on his own game and own roles.

"Dominic has got better and is settling into his game. He is getting more and more game time which helps. I was talking to Todd [Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder] when I was down at one of their recent games. He is pleased with the manner in which Dominic is developing the physicality factor."

Bird agreed a top performance from his son tonight could see him force his way into the All Blacks' 23 for the first Investec Rugby Championships test against Australia in a fortnight.

"There's a lot of pressure in the locking department, which is fantastic," Bird said.

"It's all about getting one's mental strength right and being patient. I had a similar talk to Luke [Dominic's flatmate and fellow All Black Luke Whitelock] the other week when he made way for Richie McCaw. That's the modern era of subbing and rotation ... it was a lot different in our day," said Bird, who will watch the final on TV at his Hawke's Bay home.

A Central Hawke's Bay College product, Bird jnr, 23, has been Christchurch-based since 2009. He was a member of the World Cup-winning New Zealand under-20 side in 2011.

He told his father last night that yesterday's Captain's Run went well and the Crusaders were expecting a hard and fast track. He said more than 50,000 fans were expected and he expected a "test match atmosphere".

"We're feeling pretty good and keen to continue last week's form," Bird jnr said, referring to their spectacular semifinal win against the Sharks.

Having played for the Barbarians against Fiji in front of 64,000 fans at Twickenham, Bird jnr won't be upset by 50,000 Aussies.

A Hurricanes title-winning Hawke's Bay age-group representative in teams coached by his father, Bird jnr appeared in every match for Canterbury in the 2012 ITM Cup and shone as one of the best lineout technicians in the competition. This led to his Super Rugby debut last year and despite missing much of the Crusaders' campaign through injury he made the All Blacks' end of year tour.

Bird jnr made his All Blacks debut against Japan in Tokyo last November.

His younger sisters Ellie, 21, and Jess, 18, played for the Central under-23s and Otago under-19s respectively at the national age-group netball tournament in Dunedin last month. Bird snr took in the tournament as well as the Crusaders' clash against the Highlanders in Christchurch during another trip south.

Ellie, who is studying environmental management at Victoria University, has been selected in the Wellington NPC team for the second year. Fellow goal shoot Jess is studying commerce at Otago University.

The pair have come a long way since they were opponents in the Hawke's Bay Netball League's 2012 and '13 finals for HHSOG Huias and Otane respectively.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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