Greg Bird’s Origin hopes remain alive after the Gold Coast Titans back-rower successfully had his dangerous throw charge downgraded.
Bird was still suspended for two club games and will miss the opening Origin after being found guilty of a grade two dangerous throw at the NRL judiciary on Wednesday. The Origin match won’t count as part of Bird’s suspension.
The ban will allow Bird – a guaranteed Blues selection - to play the two final games of the Origin series. Judiciary panel members Royce Ayliffe, Don McKinnon and Chris McKenna took 10 minutes to find Bird guilty of the lesser charge after he was cited with a grade-three dangerous-throw charge for a tackle on South Sydney winger Bryson Goodwin in Gold Coast’s 40-12 defeat on Saturday night.
Bird was represented by former NRL judiciary chairman Jim Hall. Bird said he had attempted a “regulation” hit and drive tackle during the 40 minute hearing.
The panel were shown three tackles including Tim Simona’s and Matt White’s grade two tackles from earlier this year while Hall pointed to Bird’s teammates Matt Srama and Ashley Harrison as contributors to the tackle.
“I saw his feet come up and realised they were getting high so I let go,” Bird said. “I just dropped him.”
NRL counsel Peter Kite said the panel members had a responsibility to halt a growing trend of dangerous tackles. He said there were 10 in 2012, eight last year and 13 already this season. Kite said the panel needed to reinforce the NRL's edict to punish any dangerous throws severely in light of Alex McKinnon's serious neck injury earlier this year.
Bird pleaded guilty to the offence but fought the severity of the charge. He would have received four-match ban if he had taken the early guilty plea to the original charge but could have been suspended for six games – and missed the entire Origin series – had the panel upheld the original charge.
"I'm satisfied I got a couple weeks off the charge," he said after the hearing. "I think everyone involved in rugby league noted that six weeks was probably too much.
"Massive relief that I'll only be missing for the first one. It would have been heartbreaking to miss the whole series.
"Players are confused. You have a big man coming at you, you can't shoulder charge, you can't dive in below the knees. Now you can't bend your back and drive. It is getting complicated. It's going to be interesting to see where we go from here."
Bird became the first the first high-profile victim of the NRL’s crackdown on lifting tackles. He will miss the Queensland NRL derby match when the Titans play Brisbane. Blues and Titans officials were stunned by the severity of the ban faced by Bird but the NRL recently announced a tougher stance on any tackle that places a player in a dangerous position. Bird hasn’t missed an Origin series since a one-season stint in France in 2009.
Cronulla’s Anthony Tupou and Parramatta’s Mitchell Allgood escaped bans after taking the early guilty plea for respective head slam and forearm charges in the fallout from the Eels’ 42-24 win against Parramatta on Monday night.