Bird 'impossible' to replace
The Gold Coast Titans will roll the dice and challenge the grading of the dangerous throw charge levelled at Greg Bird at the judiciary on Wednesday night, citing similar tackles from the past month as justification for a downgrade.
But whether their inspirational back-rower is missing for two weeks or six, fellow co-captain Nate Myles believes both the Titans and New South Wales face an impossible task in trying to replace him.
As part of their case the Titans are believed to be pointing to a tackle by Wests Tigers centre Tim Simona on Gold Coast five-eighth Aidan Sezer in Round 8 that attracted a Grade 2 charge and which saw Simona suspended for two weeks with an early guilty plea.
In that case Simona got both arms in between Sezer's legs before flipping him, Sezer's head the part of the body that made first contact with the ground although Simona did not use a driving motion in effecting the tackle.
It's the precedent that Titans and Blues fans hope will see Bird back on the paddock for Gold Coast's home game against the Panthers in Round 13 and eligible for selection for Origin II. Should they be unsuccessful in securing the downgrade, however, Bird will miss the entire Origin Series and not play again until Round 18 against the Raiders.
"It would be massive; 'Birdy' out of any side is going to be a massive loss," Myles said. "A fantastic competitor, and that's why he's so good, because of the way he competes.
"Everyone that doesn't know him would know that he doesn't like to lose but everyone that does know him knows he's a terror to play any sort of game against.
"Any side that he's not in, while he's not injured, I think is impossible to fill."
Bird would have missed four club games and two Origins if the club had decided to take the early guilty plea but coach John Cartwright is confident they can build a case compelling enough to reduce the sentence to two or possibly three weeks.
"It's in the hands of our legal people. We've got cases [involving other players] where we feel Greg has been judged harshly," Cartwright said. "That's basically what you do when you go for a downgrade, you compare different cases. Once you look at some of the Grade 2s and Grade 3s we feel we have a case.
"We feel that we're able to present a case where we're entitled to a downgrade. If you think you can get off you go down. We've done that in the past, if we think that a player has been harshly dealt with then we'll back the player, we'll stand by the player and go down and do it. We feel we have a case in this example.
"We've got examples that have happened since Round 7 so again, we wouldn't go down there if we didn't think we had a chance of getting him downgraded."
While the Titans will certainly be without Bird for games against the Broncos and Warriors over the next fortnight, veteran Luke Bailey returns from injury this week along with suspended pair Matt White and Paul Carter.
After a disappointing display against the Rabbitohs Ryan James has been dropped to play for Tweed Heads in the Intrust Super Cup with injured centres Brad Tighe and Maurice Blair expected to make their returns with Burleigh and Tweed Heads respectively.
Lock forward Ashley Harrison will have to pass a concussion test before he is given the all clear to face his former club with Mark Minichiello coming into the starting side for Bird in his 245th game in the top grade.
"He's up near 250 games 'Mini'. He likes to start and he's been part of the side that was sitting on top of the competition so we're certainly not going to panic after a loss," Cartwright said.