Catalans Dragons are standing by their captain Greg Bird, who was today sentenced to a minimum of eight months in jail for wounding his girlfriend. Bird was said to be visibly shaken and his supporters cried as he was taken into custody at Sydney's Downing Local Court, although he was later granted bail pending an appeal. That technically frees him up to resume his career with the Dragons but he is due back in court next week to face a separate charge arising out of a nightclub incident in 2008. The French Super League club do not expect his latest case, if found guilty, to warrant a custodial sentence and they are hoping his appeal will be heard at the end of the season, when his current contract expires. The club had tentatively opened negotiations on a new contract before he was found guilty in April of the reckless wounding of Katie Milligan with a broken glass but they will now go on hold until the appeal is heard. "He has a second case next week so he will not be coming back until after that," said the Catalans general manager Christophe Levy. "When everything is finished he will come back to the end of the season and then we will see for next year."
The magistrate Roger Clisdell sentenced Bird to a maximum of 16 months in prison and said that he did not believe Bird regretted the incident. "In my view there in no contrition. The accused has maintained a position of not guilty throughout the proceedings and maintains that position today," he said. "I do not accept that showing concern for Ms Milligan shows contrition in the light of his protestations of innocence."
Mr Clisdell also fined Bird 5,000 Australian dollars (Dh14,693) on the charge of false accusation and imposed a three-year good behaviour bond. "It was a despicable act and most un-Australian," he said. Ms Milligan wrote a character reference for Bird to persuade the court to give him a lenient sentence for recklessly wounding her in an incident at his Cronulla apartment last August.
But his friend Brent Watson, who the former Cronulla Sharks player originally told police was responsible for the cuts to Milligan's face and eye, described him as "selfish", the court heard today. Bird's lawyer, Les Nicholls, told the court that he had not hurt Ms Milligan intentionally and had not caused her lasting damage or disfigurement. The pair now live together in France.
* PA Sport