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Lockyer surprised by Bird's late call-up

By Wayne Heming 30/06/2010 07:52:45 PM Comments (0)

Queensland captain Darren Lockyer says Greg Bird's Origin recall to add some grunt, grit and aggression to NSW has come three games later than he expected.

Selectors have re-united former Cronulla teammates Bird and Paul Gallen - dubbed the "Bruise Brothers" when they played for NSW in 2007 and 2008.

While much of the talk in the Queensland camp on Wednesday centred on NSW blooding four players and swapping captains for Wednesday night's match, Lockyer said Queensland had paid extra attention to the recalls of Bird, Gallen and also Luke Lewis.

Bird's selection was well overdue according to Lockyer, who believes the man known as one of the game's best enforcers should have been in a blue jersey from game one.

"I was surprised he wasn't there in games one and two and I'm sure he'll add some grit to their back-row," said Lockyer, impressed with Bird's recent club form with the Titans.

Bird has played four Origins.

He made his debut off the bench in the second game of 2007 and played five-eighth in his next three appearances.

He was man-of-the-match in successive Origins with NSW muscling their way to an 18-4 win in 2007 when they were also facing a series whitewash and again in the first game of 2008 when NSW won a tough clash 18-10.

This time he'll play lock, a position Lockyer believes will allow the chunky 100kg utility to revel in the tough man role he and Gallen relish.

"You'd think going to lock would suggest he's going to be running the ball and looking to offload more than passing the ball before the line which is the halves job," said Lockyer.

"We're expecting him, particularly early in the game, to get his hands on the ball as much as possible.

"He's quite a big guy and a strong runner of the football so we're going to have to make sure we've got numbers in the tackle on him."

Bird's personal life was tipped upside down when he was charged and convicted of glassing his girlfriend in 2008, only to have his sentence quashed last November.

The Sharks dumped him in January 2009 and after missing a contract with Bradford in the UK because of visa issues he finally resumed his playing career under former Queensland star Kevin Walters, who was coaching French-based UK Super League club Catalans last year.

Bird rejected some serious dollars to return home this year without the guarantee of an NRL contract, eventually signing with the Gold Coast.

His motivation was to again play Origin football.

"He's backed himself hasn't he?" said Lockyer.

"All the dramas he had off the field are behind him.

"He's played in this arena before and gone quite well ... I think he's won two man of the match awards which would suggest he is designed for this type of contest."

Queensland prop Matt Scott will be happy to get on the field on Wednesday night and cop it from the Blues instead of his amused Queensland teammates.

Scott, who trained in head gear on Wednesday, has been unable to live down his head clash with teammate Arana Taumata while celebrating what he thought was a winning field goal against the Sharks at the weekend.

The cut required 11 stitches but the ribbing has been far more painful for the 108kg prop.

"I wish I had a good story to go with it," said a sheepish Scott who has a zipper down his forehead.

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