The fallout from the Broncos’ horrible, season-ending loss to the Eels continues and looks as though it has claimed its first major casualty.
Former marquee signing Jack Bird has reportedly been either allowed to explore his options for 2020 and beyond, or outright released depending on which report you’ve read.
Either way, it looks almost certain that the 2016 premiership winning centre/utility will be making his way back to Sydney after two horror seasons in the Queensland capital.
Injuries (and other reported issues) robbed Brisbane fans of seeing the best of their big name, and big-money signing. The general feeling on social media is that a split is best for both Bird and the Broncos.
Given his abilities, I find it very difficult to believe he will struggle to find a club for 2020 and beyond, with the Tigers, Dragons and Bulldogs both sides who have already been linked.
It’s not often that an Origin-level centre becomes available in September, but is the 2019 version of Jack Bird worth the risk for struggling clubs?
On pure talent you’d have to try incredibly hard to mount an argument against signing him.
Bird was an absolute machine for the Sharks in 2016 when they won the title. He won rookie of the year in 2015 and sparked a resurgence for the Sharks. His stared on debut for the club and ended a horror losing streak to start the season.
Going back to the 2016 title-winning season, Bird’s right hand combination with Valentine Holmes was the competition’s most dangerous.
He tore sides to shreds at times. Few will forget the magical try he scored in the Shire sun on a Sunday afternoon as the Sharks put the Knights to the sword.
Even more incredible was the pain he played through to help lift that first trophy for the club.
All the headlines were “Bird’s wings clipped” or some variation, but make no mistake Bird played through intense shoulder pain as he knew the club needed him.
The past two years in Brisbane are much harder to judge as he spent the large majority in the treatment rooms.
When he was on the field he hardly lived up to the form expected and paid for by Wayne Bennett and co.
On his way out of the Sharks, he angered fans and officials by stating his desire to play at fullback or in the halves. He then happily lined up in the centres for his new club.
There were rumours of a lack of attitude in training and jokes made about his weight. Truthfully I have no idea what truth (if any) there were to these reports but Bird did look larger than when at his best for the Sharks.
Bird’s injury history is well published so we won’t go through them again here, but it’s certainly worth considering.
Simply put, any club willing to take a punt on young Bird will be nabbing an amazing player, but a player with injury concerns and a player who will likely need special attention retraining.
One thing is for certain is that Bird won’t be able to walk into a contract anywhere near the value of his current (soon to be former) Broncos deal.
Rumours of anywhere between $600,000 and $800,000 were floated. That’s a big investment for a player who hasn’t played in months, and didn’t set the competition on fire when he did.
IF (big if) Bird can re-find his 2016 form, $400,000 suddenly looks an absolute bargain.
This is a player who can play centre, fullback or in the halves. I don’t think his body would be up to a run in the forwards but he’s done it previously. He’s the ultimate utility player and will be in NSW contention if fit and firing.
There is a lot of upside in a potential Bird signing.
He’s a former Dragon and the Red V are planning a cleanout of sorts. Matt Dufty has been told to look elsewhere and Bird can replace Gareth Widdop.
The Tigers need a five-eighth, a centre and a fullback. Take your pick. Bird slots right in.
The Dogs could use Bird in multiple positions, most obviously at centre.
The Titans would be all over this if he hadn’t indicated a return to Sydney is the reason for his request.
It’s hard to see a club having a spare half a mil in their cap as we head into October to take a punt on Bird, but with Ryan Matterson seemingly on his way out of the Tigers, I’d suspect they’ve already organised a meeting with Bird and his management.
If I were a Tigers fan I’d sure be urging my club to take the shot.
Same too if I were wearing a red V.
If Bird can return to his form of the past, the Tigers suddenly have a strike weapon out wide that they’ve lacked.
The Dogs too, Bird would literally walk into their starting line up.
Newcastle needs a strike centre to replace Jesse Ramien, but Newcastle might be a little far from Sydney, although much closer than Brisbane.
I can’t see Bird being a “free agent” for very long.