Grounded Bird will dent Blues’ chances

MANLY forward Anthony Watmough says busting up NSW's 'Bruise Brothers', Paul Gallen and Greg Bird, would be a tough blow for the Blues fighting to avoid a ninth straight State of Origin series loss to Queensland.

NSW coach Laurie Daley is already doing it tough with Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce facing sanction from the NRL over an ugly Kings Cross incident last weekend and bulldozing back-rower Andrew Fifita in doubt for Origin I with an ankle injury.

Bird's NRL club, Gold Coast, will launch a full-scale defence tonight in a bid to have his grade-three dangerous throw charge reduced by the league's judiciary.

NSW captain Gallen (16 games since 2006) and Bird (14 games since 2007) have been almost inseparable Origin teammates since 2007.

Watmough said the Blues would definitely feel the pinch if Bird missed the entire series for his tackle on Souths' Bryson Goodwin last weekend.

"They feed off each other (in Origin), they're really good mates," said Watmough of the former Cronulla

teammates who earned the nick-name Bruise Brothers for the way they play the game.

"Birdy has been one of our best players every time he takes the field. We will worry about it if it happens."

If Bird's legal team can get his charge downgraded it could mean him missing just the first Origin game at Suncorp Stadium on May 28.

If they fail, Bird could potentially miss the entire interstate series and not return until round 17 because the Titans have two byes meaning Bird could go without play for eight weeks.

Titans coach John Cartwright, who named veteran Mark Minichiello in Bird's back-row spot for Friday night's local derby with Brisbane, described the offending tackle yesterday as a "regulation tackle".

"There was some lifting involved but he didn't put his hand between the guy's legs. We all agree that is going to be in the game ... you just can't stop that kind of tackle happening in a game where there is a lot of contact, it's inevitable," he said as the club prepared Bird's defence.

"There's a duty of care to the player making the tackle more than ever, but once the centre of gravity goes, there's not much the guy making the tackle can do."

Cartwright said the Titans needed to get their start right against Brisbane, which has also been slow out of the boxes in recent losses to Souths and North Queensland



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