asa

Watch out Joe Flacco … NRL All-Star Willie Mason turned quarterback at training on Wednesday. Photo: NRLPhotos.com

THE Indigenous All Stars' camp is hopeful Greg Bird won't become the latest big-name withdrawal following NRL enforcer Paul Gallen's scratching from Saturday night's season-opening extravaganza.

Bird is battling back spasms before the Suncorp Stadium All Stars clash, and the Gold Coast back-rower was consigned to the massage table on Wednesday.

Gallen, who was recovering from a staph infection in his elbow when he entered the NRL All Stars' camp, was replaced by his new Cronulla teammate Chris Heighington after being unable to shrug off a niggling quad injury and failing to get through training on Wednesday morning.

Battling back spasms ... Greg Bird.

Battling back spasms ... Greg Bird. Photo: Getty Images

The exhibition match has already lost a swag of big names because of injury. Gallen joins the likes of Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater, Anthony Watmough, Dave Taylor and Sam Thaiday as high-profile withdrawals from the contest.

The Indigenous camp wasn't giving too much away about Bird's condition, though it is believed his stint on the massage table was precautionary and that he would be right to dish out his physical pain as usual on Saturday night.

Heighington is the eighth debutant in Wayne Bennett's revised All Stars squad.

Ruled out ... Paul Gallen.

Ruled out ... Paul Gallen. Photo: Getty Images

But the former Wests Tigers back-rower and English international has the advantage of having played most of his 200 NRL games alongside captain Benji Marshall and hooker Robbie Farah.

''Gal was disappointed,'' said NRL All Stars assistant coach Brad Fittler. ''He came into camp with a quad injury thinking if he gave it a few days' rest and then trained [it would be fine], but it hasn't come good.

''He's also had a recent elbow operation and got an infection and had a recent [charity] fight in New Zealand so, all in all, I think it's a wise decision not to play this weekend.

''Chris is a good player and good fella - he'll fit in quickly.'' Heighington said while it was an unfortunate way to get a start, he was excited about his call-up. ''All Stars is a great event and I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to play with, and against, some of the best players in the game,'' he said.

Indigenous centre Justin Hodges did his best to hide his smile when told Gallen had been ruled out.

The veteran Brisbane centre joked that once news filtered through that Gallen was out, his NSW ''bruise brother'' Bird had suddenly started ''walking just fine''.

''Of course it [Gallen's withdrawal] helps,'' Hodges said.

AAP