NRL: Adam Reynolds shoulder injury means New South Wales will need to find a new halfback for game three, but former Blue Adam MacDougall believes it should come from within.
JACK Bird and James Maloney’s Cronulla club connection will enhance their appeal as NSW’s new-look playmakers for Origin III.
So says Sharks coach Shane Flanagan, who will watch Maloney, Bird, as well as fellow Origin representatives Paul Gallen and Andrew Fifita all back up against the Warriors on Saturday.
Flanagan has no doubts his chirpy stars will gel in the middle, with Bird already a proven five-eighth, and Maloney more than capable of calling the shots at halfback.
Bird was crowned the NRL Rookie of the Year wearing Cronulla’s No. 6 jumper last season, and Flanagan said the youngster would be the first player he’d turn to if there was an injury or suspension to Maloney or Cronulla No. 7 Chad Townsend.
“Birdy played all of last year in the halves, he fancies himself there, and while he’s doing a really good job in the centres, if there’s an injury or a change to one of my halves, Birdy is the first one in there. He’s a ready-made half,’’ Flanagan told The Saturday Telegraph.
“He trained at fullback and at centre in the off-season. Because I had Jimmy and Chad, I didn’t want to mess with that too much in the off-season.
“But they’d be fine together (for Origin).
“Birdy for me is an Origin player long-term. He handled it with no problems at all, he got the ball a couple of times and made half breaks. Who knows what will happen in game three, but hopefully he gets more game time again.’’
Blues coach Laurie Daley has already started to weigh up his playmaking options for game three as Adam Reynolds races the clock to overcome a shoulder injury for the ANZ Stadium dead-rubber.
One drawback about the Bird-Maloney combination is the fact both players prefer the five-eighth role, with creativity rather than organising skills their strong point.
Flanagan said Maloney was also a ‘’play-what-you-see’’ type of half, but would have no issues leading the Blues around.
While the Cronulla quartet lost for NSW, Flanagan hopes it’s a different story for the Origin players when they wear the Sharks’ shade of blue against the Warriors.
Looking for an eleventh straight victory — which will equal the club record — the Sharks will start short-priced favourites against the Warriors.
Flanagan said Gallen would definitely play, and shot down suggestions he was a selfish player who needed to ditch the Origin arena.
“I know what Gal means to us and what he means to NSW. I know what he means to Australia after he was man of the match. Gus can say what he wants,’’ Flanagan said.
“I dismiss those comments about him being selfish and greedy. He’s always been team first. He’s been one of NSW’s best players.’’