Bird never expected the phone to ring
New South Wales utility Jack Bird has admitted he wasn't expecting to be picked for Game Three despite his starring Holden State of Origin debut in Game Two.
Initially a development player, the fact Bird was only given four days to prepare for his debut after Josh Morris (groin) ruled himself out of Origin II didn't help his own thought process when assessing whether he'd be picked by coach Laurie Daley.
Origin I utility Dylan Walker's solid performance in the centres in Game Two and Josh Dugan's inevitable return left Bird thinking the only option was for him to be dropped.
Bird admitted his preparation for his Origin debut was "all over the shop" and is craving a more conventional build up into the July 13 dead rubber.
The 21-year-old also had an opportunity to reflect on the whirlwind 18 months that's been and how quickly everything has come up for him since his NRL debut in Round 4 last year.
"I was surprised to get called up again to be honest with you. It's a bit different this time obviously, but I wasn't expecting a phone call from Laurie," Bird told NRL.com.
"I thought he might have stuck with Dyl[an Walker] because Duges was always going to come back into the squad.
"It was only last year I was sitting at home watching the footy and thinking in a few years I'd want to be playing Origin. Little did I know it would happen 12 months later. It's still so surreal," Bird added.
"Even for Game One this year, I was at home with my cousin watching it and thinking 'one day I'd love to be out there'. A few weeks later, I'm making my debut.
"It's all come in such a quick space of time but now I'm hoping to stay here for many years to come."
Making life even better for Bird is the fact he'll be joined by four of his Sharks teammates in Game Three with the club duly rewarded for its 12-game winning streak and position atop the NRL Telstra Premiership.
In what is skipper Paul Gallen's Origin swansong, James Maloney and Andrew Fifita will join Bird for what will also be Sharks vice-captain Wade Graham's NSW debut.
Graham's debut comes a fortnight after Daley said he may never get another opportunity to play for the Blues again after he was suspended for one game – Origin II – and denied what was then supposed to be his debut.
"We're playing good footy and coming first for a reason. It's no fluke. We deserve our positions," Bird said.
"We've won 12 in a row and doing what we do best week-in, week-out so it's good to get some recognition. Wade and Jimmy have formed a good bond there for us at the Sharks and it's only going to do wonders for New South Wales.
"Gal's obviously been in the team for a long time too and it's good to see Wadeo's performances not go unnoticed any longer. We Cronulla boys are all so close and we love playing with each other so it's great to be recognised."