Broncos’ gamble to help struggling Bird
BRISBANE's fastest man James Roberts is set for a shock move to left centre as part of coach Wayne Bennett's desperate bid to ignite struggling big-money recruit Jack Bird.
Bennett is considering a selection gamble by shifting Roberts to the left edge and deploying Bird in his preferred right-centre slot in a crucial shake-up of Brisbane's backline for Saturday night's clash with Manly.
Roberts has played all 60 of his Broncos games at right centre, but such is Bennett's desire to get Bird firing, "The Jet" will be asked to play the left-centre role made famous by Brisbane legend Steve Renouf.
Bennett has privately met with Roberts to discuss the positional shift.
The NSW Origin hopeful has agreed to the move in a bid to extract the best out of the misfiring Bird, who has yet to make a line break for the Broncos in 556 minutes of action.
Roberts and Bird swapped positions at Broncos training on Wednesday.
The pair will run in their new positions at the captain's run on Friday at Red Hill, with Bennett to make a final call after the session.
However, it seems certain Bird will take on Manly at right centre, the position he played in Cronulla's premiership triumph two years ago.
Bennett's willingness to relocate Roberts, Brisbane's most dangerous attacking weapon, underscores the Broncos' determination to ensure Bird, who is on $800,000 this season, delivers bang for his big bucks.
Bird is also carrying a niggling sternum injury and Bennett believes he will derive more confidence by playing where he feels most comfortable.
The tactical move will be applauded by Renouf, Brisbane's greatest tryscorer.
Last year, Renouf, who scored 142 tries in 183 games for the Broncos, said Roberts was not seeing enough ball at right centre.
"To be honest, James Roberts needs to go to left centre, he's wasted on the right side," said Renouf, who reiterated his sentiments to Bennett after the World Cup final last December.
"I've actually said it to Wayne. James might prefer playing right side, but I honestly believe he would be a more dangerous player on the other side of the field.
"If you look at how teams play, most teams attack down the left because most players in the game are right-handers who pass right to left.
"He's been around long enough at the Broncos now to warrant more ball.
"The fans want to see the Broncos unleash him ... just give him the ball."
Broncos winger Corey Oates has played outside Bird and admits the left-centre position has been unfamiliar territory for the NSW Origin utility.
"Jack has just had to get used to playing on the left edge because he was so used to playing on the right," he said.
"It's a totally different position, so he's had to adjust.
"I am backing Jack to keep improving, he's a good guy to have in the team and I have full confidence in him to keep improving."