Greg Bird is set to fight for his State of Origin dream at the NRL judiciary on Wednesday night, as NSW’s preparations continue to lurch from one disaster to the next.
With Blues halfback Mitchell Pearce already under investigation for off-field misbehaviour, coach Laurie Daley was on Monday given another monumental headache when star forward Bird was charged with a grade three dangerous throw.
Even with an early guilty plea, Bird will miss the first two Origin matches as NSW fight to avoid losing a ninth-straight series.
If Bird rolls the dice, challenges the charge and loses, he would miss six weeks and the entire Origin campaign.
Bird stands to lose close to $60,000 in match payments if he’s rubbed out for the opening two matches, and NSW would be robbed of one player who has consistently starred against Queensland during their eight-series run of victories.
Gold Coast are yet to officially decide on their approach, but it’s likely they will seek a downgrade at the judiciary on Wednesday.
If the matter is downgraded to a two, Bird would only miss Origin one, but if he can convince the panel it’s a grade one offence, he will be free to play at Suncorp Stadium on May 28.
Gold Coast chief executive Graham Annesley admits Bird will be driving what approach the club takes, after the judiciary came down hard on his lifting tackle on South Sydney’s Bryson Goodwin.
“We need to look at some video and overnight consider our decision,” Annesley told AAP.
“We’re not going to rush into our decision.
“It’ll be a joint decision with Greg. He’ll have a large degree of input, ultimately it’s his future we’re talking about.”
Bird was one of three players facing bans over dangerous throw charges as the NRL continues its clamp down in the wake of the serious spinal injury to Newcastle forward Alex McKinnon earlier this year.
Souths’ Koroisau Apisai and Melbourne’s Ben Hampton are both facing two to three games out after copping grade two dangerous throw charges.
There are no such dramas for Queensland pair Cameron Smith and Billy Slater, with both free to play this weekend if they take the early plea for dangerous contact and high tackle charges respectively.
Queensland great Gary Belcher says if Bird is rubbed out it would be a significant blow to the embattled Blues, however he gives the 29-year-old a chance of winning his appeal.
“You’d think he’d have to appeal it. I think it’s pretty harsh. I was surprised by the severity of it,” Belcher told AAP.
“But it’s huge. He’s a great player and he suits that arena perfectly. Such a competitive bugger and he’s aggressive and got all those attributes you need.”
The magnitude of Bird’s potential absence will only be magnified if Roosters halfback Pearce is banned for an alleged incident at a Kings Cross nightclub on Sunday morning.
Bird has played five-eighth for the Blues in the past and could be called upon again if the halves are weakened.
Queensland forward Sam Thaiday said NSW would find a way to replace Pearce if he was sanctioned.
“And if he does miss out on the first game it will only make him hungrier. He will want to prove to everyone that he wants to get back for that second game,” Thaiday said.
“We have all stuffed up in our own little ways through our careers. We need to learn that we can’t be doing these things any more.”