Broncos nightmare continues for Bird
JACK Bird's nightmare season at the Broncos has continued with the struggling big-name recruit sidelined for Friday night's blockbuster against the Roosters at Suncorp Stadium.
Bird has attempted to play through the pain barrier for the past eight weeks but the NSW Origin utility has finally succumbed to a sternum injury that has plagued him since the pre-season.
The $3.5 million recruit played a secondary role at Broncos training on Tuesday, running with the Renegades squad while wearing a red vest to signify he was off-limits for contact work.
The loss of Bird, Alex Glenn (knee) and Payne Haas (shoulder) has paved the way for two more debutants in former Cowboy Patrick Mago and Queensland under-20s centre Gehamat Shibasaki.
The rookie duo trained with the main squad on Tuesday and have been named on the interchange bench for the showdown with the Roosters team which broke Brisbane's hearts in last year's finals series.
"Jack's sternum has been giving him grief and injuries like that are pretty sore," Broncos hooker Andrew McCullough said.
"It takes the pressure off Jack to make sure he gets his sternum right and gets back into it. I'm not sure how long he is out but it gives someone an opportunity this week.
"They (Broncos medicos) are trying to manage him.
"There is still a lot of football this year and if he can have a break over the next few weeks, it will be a blessing for him."
McCullough says Bird has fitted well into the group despite his below-par form.
"Mentally he is fine," he said. "He just wants to do his best for the team and it's hard to do that when you are carrying a niggling injury.
"You worry about your performance and being a key recruit ... he will be fine, we'll see how he goes after this week."
McCullough backed young guns Mago and Shibasaki, who is highly-rated by former Broncos centre Justin Hodges, to handle their Broncos baptisms.
"The club is doing a tremendous job to create some depth for ourselves to rely on those guys coming through," he said.
"There's a few interchange spots there and Patrick has been playing well in the Queensland Cup and that's the reward you get.
"It's popped up for Pat and he gets his chance."
McCullough said the Broncos, languishing in ninth spot, were desperate to hit back after last week's dismal 38-24 loss to the Sea Eagles.
"It's a great challenge," he said.
"What the club needs at this stage is for myself, Sam (Thaiday) and Darius (Boyd, skipper) to stand up and the younger guys to step up.
"We were outenthused (against Manly), it shouldn't come to that and to see our fans going home early is disappointing, you don't like seeing that."