A crestfallen Greg Bird has been rubbed out of the entire State of Origin series after copping an eight-game ban at the NRL judiciary on Wednesday night.
After deliberating for just nine minutes the judiciary panel of Chris McKenna, Bronson Harrison and Mal Cochrane upheld Bird’s grade two dangerous throw charge for his tackle on Kiwi winger Jason Nightingale in the Kangaroos’ Test loss on Sunday.
The Blues enforcer will not be available until the Gold Coast’s round 19 fixture against Newcastle.
Bird declined to comment after the verdict was handed out. Instead Titans coach Neil Henry made a brief statement to waiting media.
“Obviously we are very disappointed in the outcome,” Henry said.
“We thought we made a strong case for a downgrade – grade two to grade one – and we thought we had evidence to prove that.
“Unfortunately that wasn’t the case with the judiciary.
“As a club we are very disappointed to lose the services of Greg for an extended period of time.”
Bird’s defence counsel Jim Hall unsuccessfully argued that Australian back-rower Corey Parker held the greater responsibility for Nightingale ending up in a dangerous position.
“There was low force from player Bird (but) the force from player Parker was high or moderate,” Hall said.
“The three players (including Australian winger Alex Johnston) played a part in the tackle going wrong.
“Player Parker took control of the tackle and pulled the player down.”
‘Nothing trivial’ about Bird’s tackle
Bird had pleaded guilty to a dangerous throw but had sought a downgrade from a grade one to a grade two.
However judiciary prosecutor Peter McGrath successfully argued that “the danger or the potential of danger is what makes the grading appropriate.
“There is nothing trivial about it.”
Through numerous angles of the tackle McGrath said that Bird had “re-gripped” or made a “second effort” in tackling Nightingale and then lifting the St George Illawarra star into a dangerous position.
McGrath said that not Parke nor Johnston had contributed to the position Nightingale was placed in.
“Player Parker really lessens the force or impetus,” McGrath said.
In giving evidence Bird conceded it was “an awkward tackle” but said: “I’m suggesting it wasn’t a lifting movement, I wasn’t in control”.
Trent Merrin shapes as the most likely replacement for Bird in New South Wales’ back-row with Boyd Cordner, Ryan James and Josh Jackson among the other possibilities.
In other judiciary news, Josh Reynolds was handed a one-week ban thanks to an early guilty plea for tripping in the City-Country clash, while Sam Thaiday and Kaufusi Felise were given the same punishment after also submitting early guilty pleas for a dangerous throw and dangerous contact respectively.