Broncos star recruit Jack Bird could miss the rest of the season after the club’s medical team discovered a rare condition in the centre’s sternum.
Bird’s initial six-week recovery surgery is likely to be extended by another month after surgeons found an extra joint in his damaged sternum, according to a report by The Courier-Mail.
The 23-year old had bone fragments and a metal plate inserted to fortify his chronic sternum problems that have troubled Bird since his days in Cronulla.
An extra month’s recovery would sideline Bird for as many as 10 weeks, meaning he could return in time for finals, although the Broncos may shut him down for the season and focus on getting him fit for the 2019 pre-season.
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett is still holding out hope that Bird will play again this season.
“We’ve now got to the bottom of why he was having all this pain,” Bennett told The Herald Sun.
“Originally he was going to miss six weeks but the recovery is about 8-10 weeks now.
“I’m hoping to get Jack back this season, he might be able to play a few games for us, but if not, we’ll get him right for next year.
“It’s been a really tough year for Jack, he’s been in pain all year and it’s not easy for anyone in that situation.
“I think Jack is now just glad to have some answers to why he was in so much pain. There’s a lot of expectations around Jack and he wants to do well, but he’s in a much better place mentally than he was a few months ago.
“A good pre-season is so important for any player. None of us knew the extent of Jack’s sternum injury so now we can move forward and hopefully we’ll see a different player next year.”
The sternum injury caps off a disappointing season for Bird, who has only played eight NRL games and missed Origin selection, also enduring shoulder surgery.
Brisbane’s high-performance chief Jeremy Hickmans was dumbfounded by Bird’s sternum condition.
“I’ve never seen it before in my time in rugby league,” Hickmans told The Herald Sun.
“Halfway down his sternum he has an extra joint which is shifting and basically what’s happened, as it has grown, a bone has formed across the sternum.
“The surgeon said the joint was basically flapping in the wind when he opened him up. There has been some bone growth in the wrong direction that is also giving him pain.
“As a club, the Broncos have never had a sternum surgery in this manner. We even had to look up a specialised surgeon to do the operation.
“We were initially debating whether he required surgery but thankfully we decided on that and hopefully now Jack will get better.
“Jack already feels more comfortable.”