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3 days ago
NSW five-eighth Greg Bird says Queensland opposite Karmichael Hunt should brace himself for the biggest defensive workload of his football career in next week's opening State of Origin clash at ANZ Stadium.
The Maroons have taken a selection gamble by thrusting former Test fullback Hunt into pivot to replace injured skipper Darren Lockyer for the May 21 match.
And just as NSW try to do with Lockyer, Bird has promised to send as much heavy traffic as possible at Hunt.
In his 89-game NRL career Hunt has only twice exceeded 10 tackles per game, both when he was playing halfback, with his highest tally of 12 coming in round two last season.
But of more concern to the Queenslanders is that Hunt missed eight tackles in that 2007 game against the Warriors and NSW will look to exploit his lack of defensive experience by sending their big forwards in his direction next week.
"I wouldn't expect he has done too much defensive work playing fullback," said Bird.
"I'm sure we will look to run at him.
"We will find out a lot more about our structure and where we're heading when we have our team meetings."
Bird meanwhile says he has his own areas to improve in the next week, most importantly his kicking game to help support rookie halfback Peter Wallace.
While Wallace is expected to do most of the kicking, Bird says he has been working on his boot with Sharks coach Ricky Stuart and club halfback Brett Kimmorley to improve the biggest weakness in his game as a pivot.
"I have been doing a lot of work on it the last couple of years," he said.
"I used to be full time kicker back in the day. But I don't have to use it much at the Sharks because we have the best kicker in the NRL in Brett Kimmorley.
"I'm quite confident I can do the job."