Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart is preparing for the Gold Coast Titans to play ducks and drakes with Greg Bird, tipping the NSW forward to switch to five-eighth for Sunday's NRL match at Canberra Stadium.
Former Raiders coach and now Titans assistant Neil Henry was adamant the Titans would start with Queensland Origin lock Ashley Harrison at five-eighth, after regular No.6 Aidan Sezer was forced to withdraw because of a quadriceps injury.
But Henry admitted the Titans would look at possible "rotations" in their pivot role, with former Raiders player and fullback William Zillman another man capable of slotting into the position.
Bird has had to overcome his own shoulder injury to play against the Raiders, but Stuart – who coached him at NSW – was preparing for a surprise switch.
"I actually think Bird will play five-eighth," Stuart said. "They've named Harrison, but it wouldn't surprise me if Bird plays five-eighth.
"He's a tough player Birdy. He's a player you always have to watch because he's a competitor."
Stuart expects that competitive drive to spark the Titans, who were humiliated 42-12 by the Wests Tigers last week, the club's biggest ever home defeat.
"They'll be ready to redeem themselves from last week and that's how we're preparing,'' Stuart said. "They've got half a dozen Origin players in their team, they won't let that performance of last week be repeated. We know we'll be in for a battle.''
Henry said the Titans had done some soul searching after a "poor" performance last week, but Bird would start in the pack.
"We've got a bit of rotation we can look at [at five-eighth] but Ashley Harrison will slot into that role, he's done it before at the back end of last year,'' Henry said. "He'll be in that position for most of the game."
The Raiders have their own issues, missing back-rowers Josh Papalii (ankle) and Shaun Fensom (suspension). Henry, who coached the Raiders from 2007-08, felt Canberra still had a well-balanced side, aware of the capabilities of replacements Paul Vaughan and Jarrad Kennedy. Henry said the Titans needed to dominate the forward battle.
"Having a couple of players out could worry them a little bit, we're hoping there's a strength in our forward pack with Nate Myles and Greg Bird in particular, then with our front-rowers Luke Bailey, Luke Douglas and Matthew White. Hopefully we can hold our own in midfield.
"We need to work better around our rucks because already Canberra have shown that if they get on a roll that they can be a real threat. [Anthony] Milford's been outstanding at the back, you've got to watch him all the time.
"We've got to try and limit the damage he can do. He's going to get you at some stage, he'll step through or make a break. We just need to limit those opportunities."