Bennett’s Bird blast: ‘Jack won’t be going home’
WAYNE Bennett has blasted suggestions Jack Bird wants out of the Broncos as the super coach presides over a shake-up of his backline to ignite his struggling big-money recruit.
Speculation is rife Bird is considering an early release from his four-year, $3.5 million Broncos deal, with the NSW Origin utility said to be battling to adjust to life in Queensland after a turbulent start at Red Hill marred by a shoulder reconstruction.
But Bennett is doing everything possible to ensure Bird is happy, with the Broncos coach confirming he would move James Roberts to left centre to accommodate Bird on the right for Saturday night's clash against Manly.
Bird admitted a fortnight ago he was suffering a crisis of confidence as he plays through the pain barrier with a fresh sternum injury that has plagued him for the past eight weeks.
Speaking for the first time about Bird's future at the Broncos, Bennett is mindful of the 23-year-old's struggles, but is adamant the former Cronulla ace will not be returning to Sydney.
"Jack hasn't spoken to me about going home and Jack won't be going home," Bennett said.
"He can go home on his days off but he won't be going home (to Sydney) any other time.
"The Broncos is probably the toughest club in the NRL to come to, the profile here, the pressure here, the expectation here.
"I can't think of a player we've bought who hasn't struggled in their first year here.
"I remember Darren Smith came to the Broncos (in 1995) and Allan Langer (former halfback) saying to me we got the wrong Smith, because his brother was playing well at Canterbury.
"It's something I expected with Jack."
Bird has not scored a try or made a line break in 556 minutes of action for the Broncos, but Bennett hopes a tactical switch to right centre can help reprise his premiership-winning form at the Sharks.
Bird trained at right centre at the captain's run on Friday morning, with Roberts - who has played all 60 of his Broncos games on the right - shifting to the left edge inside Corey Oates.
It will be Bird's fifth position in eight games for the Broncos and Bennett hopes the familiar spot will spark the attacking dynamo into action.
"We want to help Jack get back to his best form so this is part of the process," Bennett said.
"He is in a position he is familiar with and comfortable so I'll let him play there (right centre) and take the pressure off him being in different positions.
"There are other positions Jack can play, but right now we need him as a centre.
"Confidence is something ... you can take them to the water, but you can't make them drink. Jack knows he is wanted at the club, he just has to get over the little niggling injury he has and he will be fine.
"James is happy to go to the left. There has always been a suggestion about James playing on the left but we haven't taken the opportunity. He said to me a couple of weeks ago he is happy to be on the left if we needed him to go there.
"I reaffirmed that with James. It gives us a strong left side with Anthony Milford, Roberts, Corey Oates and Darius Boyd."