Bird: Why I had to leave the Sharks
BRISBANE'S $3.5 million recruit Jack Bird says he is under pressure to succeed next season and has pledged to unleash the best form of his career to help deliver another Broncos premiership.
In his first interview as a Bronco, Bird opened up about his reasons for quitting the Sharks and the bitter feud between Brisbane and Cronulla over the shoulder operation that will delay his 2018 season.
The attacking dynamo also ended months of speculation over his playing position, outlining plans to wear the No. 3 jumper made famous by Broncos legend Steve Renouf.
"The Broncos is a new chapter for me," Bird said.
"You haven't seen the best of me in the NRL."
POINT TO PROVE
IN the past five years, a string of Broncos off-season recruits have failed to deliver.
Scott Prince, Martin Kennedy, James Gavet, Greg Eden and Mitch Garbutt never reached great heights at Red Hill.
Then there's Ben Barba, perhaps the biggest recruitment flop in Broncos history after his forgettable one-season stint in 2014.
Bird will be one of Brisbane's highest-paid players next season on an estimated $800,000. The Broncos are paying for premiership quality and Bird, who won a title with Cronulla in 2016, wants to break Brisbane's 12-year drought.
"I know the Broncos expect a lot of their recruits," he said.
"I've looked at our roster and I believe we can win a grand final here.
"I have signed here for four years and during that time I'd love to get another premiership ring.
"I'm looking forward to working with Wayne Bennett. I have known him since his days at the Dragons, but I was in the junior grades then. He has been very good as a mentor to me since I've signed.
"My goal is to help the Broncos win a grand final. I want to play the best football of my career at this club."
ON the surface, Bird and Cronulla seemed a perfect match.
In three seasons in the Shire, Bird made his NRL debut, broke into the NSW Origin team and helped Cronulla smash a 49-year premiership hoodoo. But after 66 games for the club, Bird became restless.
"To be honest, I felt I was stagnating at the Sharks," he said.
"I felt I could get better as a player. I wasn't playing well towards the end at the Sharks, so I felt I needed a change.
"Maybe the Sharks' structures weren't suited to me. I had a good two years there but last year I went downhill. I was probably a bit stale. I wasn't enjoying my football.
"I just look at the Broncos' style and they play a different structure and style of football to the Sharks.
"I'm hoping they can inject me into the game a bit more. The Broncos are the right fit for me."
THE SHOULDER BUST-UP
BIRD is expected to miss the first month of the 2018 premiership after having shoulder surgery last month.
Broncos coach Bennett slammed the Sharks for failing to advise Bird he required an operation. Cronulla medicos backed their rehabilitation plan for Bird.
"I'm disappointed at the Sharks," said Bird, speaking for the first time about the issue.
"I had a good talk to the Broncos' surgeon about my shoulder and he made it clear I needed the operation.
"The Sharks said you couldn't see the damage on the first scan but I was disappointed they didn't send me for another scan using the dye, which would have shown up the damage.
"They did what they had to do. I don't want to be bagging the Sharks, I'm looking forward now, but the fact I eventually needed surgery, it has set me back a month. There's nothing I can do now.
"They believed they were doing the right thing, but I kept telling them I was having pain. It was sore when I first injured my shoulder and I missed five games.
"When I came back for the semis, it wasn't hurting as much, but I was still getting pain doing weights and bench pressing. All the ligaments at the back of my shoulder were torn and the bone was coming in and out pushing against my back.
"I'm a little bit disappointed at how things have started at the Broncos. I was looking forward to having a real big crack in pre-season with a view to playing in Round 1 against my junior club the Dragons.
"Hopefully I can get back quicker than expected. I will probably miss four games but if I do my rehab right, I could be back in time for Round 1."
BIRD has been linked with the five-eighth and lock positions at the Broncos but says he is excited at the prospect of forging a centre strike force with James Roberts.
"I will more than likely start in the centres," he said.
"I'm still not 100 per cent sure because Wayne Bennett was away with the World Cup, but if he wants me to play centre, that's fine with me.
"All the talk about me not liking centre at the Sharks was a misunderstanding. I'm happy to play anywhere at the Broncos. I like having the ball in my hands. I'm not a ball hog, but if I'm not in the game, I do tend to go missing.
"James Roberts got a lot of ball here last season and I think the Broncos can do the same for me. I have struck up a good friendship with Jimmy, so hopefully we can be a good centre pairing on the field."
AT age 16, Bird was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. It is an auto-immune disorder that can cause bone erosion and joint deformity.
Bird turns 23 in March and is confident his career will not be cut short.
"My arthritis is good now, I'm in remission with it," he said.
"I still have injections to keep it under control. I don't like talking about it too much because I get asked about it all the time, but I'm really happy with how my body is holding up.
"I want to play Origin again next year. I don't think I'll be popular with Queensland and Broncos fans if I'm wearing a Blues jersey, but that's OK, I can handle it."