Johnathan Thurston can expect some special treatment from the NSW defence in State of Origin I.
NSW enforcer Greg Bird returns to the Blues line-up for this year’s series after missing all three games in 2015 due to suspension and now he’s primed to put the heat on Queensland’s superstar playmaker at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday.
Thurston’s North Queensland NRL coach Paul Green has repeatedly called for referees to help protect from what he views as overzealous targetting of his key playmaker.
Green repeated those claims after Thurston was hit late by Kiwis prop Sam Moa in Australia’s Test win in Newcastle earlier this month.
But it seems as far as Bird is concerned all that talk has fallen on deaf ears.
“As a playmaker you expect to get hit sometimes, hopefully you (the defender) don’t get suspended for it,” Bird said.
“All the good halves run to the line, and Thurston is probably the best exponent of it, you seen him doing it week-in week-out and getting hit and putting his backrower away.
“That is the idea of a halfback to draw in defenders and you have to hit them with everything you can to make sure they pass a little bit early.
“That way you make things a bit easier for the blokes outside you in terms of their decision making, and we will see how that is adjudicated.”
However Bird said he was keen to channel his aggression appropriately, having learned from last year’s suspension.
“The days of Origin being a bash up with no rules are gone,” he said.
“You have to walk that line. But there is still that battle in the middle of the field, that tussle for domination.
“You still need to dominate the other forward pack, so there is a place for that aggression.”