Bird could play lock0
NRL: Courier Mail reporter Peter Badel reveals Wayne Bennett wants Jack Bird to play at lock for Brisban.
THE pressure of deciding his NRL future is weighing down Cronulla’s Jack Bird, according to close friend and teammate Valentine Holmes.
Bird has fielded intense interest from Newcastle and Brisbane, while the Sharks are also desperate to retain the 22-year-old’s services.
Holmes has played with Bird since their time with the Junior Kangaroos in 2014, but said he had noticed a significant difference in the NSW Origin star in recent weeks.
“You can tell he’s not really there at training,” Holmes said.
“He just seems like something is on his mind and obviously it would be that.
“He’s only 22. It’s a big decision in your life and to move to another state or to another club even, it would be pretty tough.”
Holmes re-signed with the Sharks on a two-year deal over the off-season. The pair headlined a number of the club’s premiership-winning stars to have their contracts expire this year, but so far Bird’s has proved the toughest to extend.
“It was pretty massive on me but I was lucky to get it done before the season started,” Holmes said.
Bird is yet to score a try or break the defensive line in 2017, but had his best game of the season in Sunday’s 11-2 win over Melbourne.
Despite the number of players off-contract, the Sharks’ salary cap pressure has been eased by the off-season departures of Michael Ennis and Ben Barba. Veterans Paul Gallen, Chris Heighington and Luke Lewis are all off-contract this year.
Gallen and Heighington are considering retirement.
Holmes said he had spoken with Bird and told him he wants him to stay but he doesn’t expect it to have any bearing on his decision.
Bird also met captain Paul Gallen on Wednesday, as well as reportedly with coach Shane Flanagan.
It’s understood the Sharks are unable to meet the offer from the Broncos, while the Knights have also thrown big money at the utility back.
Part of Bird’s sticking point is the fact he wants to play in the halves or at fullback, while he is limited to the centre position at Cronulla.
That could change though if off-contract halfback Chad Townsend leaves the club at the end of the season, and Flanagan opts to put Bird in the No.6 jersey alongside playmaker James Maloney.