Will Brisbane ever see the best of Jack Bird? (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
Will Brisbane ever see the best of Jack Bird? (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

Tallis: Bird could soar at five-eighth

FORMER Brisbane skipper Gorden Tallis has called for besieged recruit Jack Bird to be handed the No.6 jumper in a bid to save his career at the Broncos.

Bird will meet with Broncos coach Wayne Bennett next month to formulate a plan on how best to use the utility in the wake of a nightmare 2018 campaign marred by shoulder and sternum injuries.

Hailed as the club's marquee recruit after inking a $3.5 million, four-year deal, Bird was barely sighted, playing just eight games, failing to score a try and eventually losing his NSW Origin jumper.

Now the heat is truly on Bird, who enters his second season at Red Hill as one of Brisbane's highest-paid players on a 2019 salary worth about $900,000.

Throughout last season, Bird was buffeted by speculation he wanted out of the Broncos. It prompted a heart-to-heart with Bennett, who advised Bird to commit to Brisbane for at least another 12 months to atone for his turbulent maiden year at Red Hill.

Tallis says Brisbane's massive financial investment in Bird means he must play a dominant role at five-eighth, even if it means taking the No.6 jumper off reigning player-of-the-year Anthony Milford.

Wayne Bennett might have to change his approach to suit Bird. (AAP Image/Darren England)
Wayne Bennett might have to change his approach to suit Bird. (AAP Image/Darren England)

"The Broncos have paid five-eighth money for Bird so that's where he has to play," Tallis said.

"I don't know what moves they'll have to do to make that happen but they've paid too much for him if he doesn't play in the halves.

"The Broncos have to accommodate him somewhere next year.

"I actually think his best position is centre. He's a natural ball runner and Jack Bird's best position is when he is running the football.

"I haven't seen a lot of his passing game or game management, but they bought him to be a playmaker."

The conundrum for Bennett is where to play Bird.

Milford might benefit from some pressure. (Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
Milford might benefit from some pressure. (Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Centre is the most likely option, but Bird prefers right centre, the very position James Roberts has made his own in his rise to the NSW Origin team.

Skipper Darius Boyd is the first-choice fullback, while Bennett is unlikely to risk Bird at lock given the defensive demands that could inflict fresh damage on the sternum problem he had repaired in June.

Bird has been touted a possible super-sub in the No.14 jumper, but the Broncos can't afford to have a big-money recruit sitting on the bench.

If he serious about succeeding at Brisbane, Bird may have to consider a permanent move to left centre, which was a problem area for the Broncos last season.

James Roberts is also in Bird’s path. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
James Roberts is also in Bird’s path. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

Former Broncos five-eighth Darren Lockyer urged Bennett to keep Bird away from the halves, saying it would impose too much responsibility at a critical stage of his career.

"Centre is Jack's best position," Lockyer said.

"I don't think the expectation of playing in the halves is what Jack needs at this stage of his career at the Broncos. It's just too much pressure for him.

"Because he hasn't played a lot of footy, he just needs to find stability in one position and get his body used to contact again and running good lines and defending well.

"Jack has won a premiership at centre and that's the best place to find his feet again.

"Jack just has to write last year off and start again. Hopefully time off has given his body a chance to recover and his mind as well."