The Blues may be shopping for a new five-eighth for State of Origin rugby in 2018, as Jack Bird was recently benched by Coach Wayne Bennett after 69 minutes of the close contest between the Brisbane Broncos and the Canterbury Bulldogs.
The Broncos won at the end, 22 – 20, but Bird was off for the final 11 minutes, officially reported as an injured quadriceps muscle, some thought it was his lack of running the ball that resulted in his being given the hook by Bennett.
Bird, playing in the halves, ran the ball just three times in the 69 minutes he played against Manly.
Fox commentator Braith Anasta expressed the opinion that lack of performance, not a quad issue, was behind the late-game lift.
“Bird’s only run the ball three times in the whole match playing in the halves. You want him to run the ball, that’s why you’ve got him there. I know the NSW selectors are looking at him to play five-eighth for the Blues, well this will do his chances a lot of harm.”
Bird was move to the halves when his play at centre did not give him the number of touches that the Broncos had hoped for when they signed him during the off-season.
Bird has struggled in the Telstra 2018 NRL Premiership competition with injury and form issues and he is not the first big name to jump sides only to turn out poorly.
Bennett pointed to a play where Bird committed a defensive error that nearly cost the Broncos a Manly try as being the play where Bird was hurt. The surface of Suncorp stadium, described as “slippery” might have been just the sort of surface Parramatta could use to advantage, but Broncos prefer a softer surface on which to buck.
Whatever the reason for his early departure, Bennett is of the opinion that Bird may miss some playing time and the last thing Blues’ selectors need is the prospect of choosing a player who is not 100 percent fit.