This week in Gamebreakers we preview the clash of the captains with Greg Bird and Simon Mannering set to go head-to-head in the back row during Sunday afternoon’s pivotal clash.
Mannering has had another tremendous year at the helm of his beloved Vodafone Warriors. The captain, who has played in every game so far, has notched up 2015 metres, the fourth most for the club. Mannering’s try-scoring strike rate is impressive, too, with his total of nine equalling his best season tally to date which he achieved in 2006.
On defence, Mannering has been an absolute stalwart with 660 tackles so far, a number bettered only by the ever-present Nathan Friend. Among Mannering’s season highlights to date was a massive game in round 12 against the Knights when the veteran scored two tries in his 200th appearance in front of a big crowd at Mount Smart.
Greg Bird is also a member of the 200-game club, having just crossed the threshold against the Dragons last weekend. He has had another strong year with the Titans, despite missing six games due to a foot injury he sustained in May’s Anzac Test. He has produced 1912 running metres for the Gold Coast side and has three tries.
His highlight this season was his strong showing for New South Wales in the series-clinching Origin II win in which he made 114 metres and racked up 25 tackles.
Bird will have his work cut out for him on Sunday, however, as he will be without Queensland representatives Nate Myles and David Taylor. Prop Luke Bailey has also been ruled out, meaning Bird will have a much larger load than usual sitting squarely on his shoulders.
He will be hoping his side - currently placed 13th - can end its five-game losing skid and also douse its seven-game losing streak to the Vodafone Warriors. The Titans have not defeated the Auckland side since the two teams faced off in the 2010 finals.