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Bird stood down indefinitely by Sharks

25/08/2008 07:30:49 PM Comments (0)

The NRL career of Cronulla star Greg Bird hangs in the balance after the Australian representative was stood down by the Sharks pending the outcome of allegations that he assaulted his girlfriend.

Bird was granted strict conditional bail after spending Sunday night in police custody charged over an incident at his Cronulla apartment, and is due back in court on October 8 - three days after the NRL grand final.

The Sharks star is accused of inflicting grievous bodily harm on his girlfriend, Katie Milligan, who remains in Prince of Wales Hospital where she is expected to undergo surgery for cuts to her face and a fractured eye socket.

Bird is unlikely to play again this season but Cronulla chief executive Tony Zappia said the club had stopped short of tearing up his contract - which runs through to the end of the 2012 NRL season - until the case is concluded.

"Whether to stand him down or sack him were always considerations for the club and the board and the coaching staff," Zappia said.

"At this point in time, we don't have all the facts and obviously it's important that we do have all the facts before any further action is determined.

"He certainly won't be training or playing with the NRL team and I would say it's highly unlikely he'd play again this year."

NRL chief executive David Gallop admitted the league could follow the same path taken with Canberra bad boy Todd Carney - who will not be allowed to play in the NRL next season - should the charges against Bird be proven.

"Certainly if these allegations are proven then we are certainly into the territory of looking at not only his future at that club, but his future in the game," Gallop said.

"Obviously these are very serious allegations. It's now a matter for the courts, but I certainly support the action of the Sharks in standing the player down."

Bird was granted bail by Magistrate Bev Schurr, who ordered he comply with the conditions of an interim apprehended violence order (AVO) issued on Sunday.

It forbids him from making contact with Milligan, his flatmate Brent Watson or any neighbours.

Bird was released from custody on a $5,000 surety.

Bird was accused of lying by police prosecution in court after alleging his flatmate Watson was responsible for Milligan's injuries.

Mr Watson told police he was playing golf at the time of the incident.

The Sharks issued a statement on Sunday night saying: "Following initial enquires, the club understands that an argument between two guests at Greg Bird's Cronulla unit has resulted in an injury to a friend."

Asked how the story he had been told on Sunday compared to that told to the court, Zappia said: "They're reasonably different."

"But obviously the matter is a legal matter.

"It is a bit of a kick in the teeth, luckily I've still got my teeth."

Questioned over accusations of double standards after the club had shown former hooker Tevita Latu the door before he was convicted of breaking a woman's nose in 2006, Zappia - who was not at the club at the time - said the two matter were not the same.

"From what I understand it was pretty cut and dried circumstances and the matters were not contested by the player," Zappia said of Latu's sacking.

"From what I understand happened this morning at court, Greg and his counsel said that he would be strongly denying the allegations.

"It's a slightly different situation."

Coach Ricky Stuart admitted he was "hurting" for Bird, but said the club would move on immediately as it looked to keep its premiership campaign on track.

The Sharks ensured a home final with last week's win over the Sydney Roosters, but Bird was seen as one of the key men behind the push for a maiden premiership.

"Without Greg Bird's qualities as a footballer it makes it a lot tougher for us, it's another obstacle we have to face," Stuart said.

"I've assured the players that I'm going to unite this team like they've never seen before, I'm going to make this a journey they remember."

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