Bird spotted on Sydney radar as rivals circle
THE Dragons and Bulldogs are eyeing off Jack Bird following revelations Broncos coach Anthony Seibold has given the former NSW State of Origin star permission to negotiate with rival clubs.
The Courier-Mail understands St George Illawarra has Bird on its radar with the Dragons having room under the salary cap following the departure of star playmaker Gareth Widdop to English club Warrington.
Canterbury and Wests Tigers are others monitoring the Bird situation.
There are fears Bird has played his final game for the Broncos, with his management asking Seibold for the opportunity to explore the market amid speculation the injury-ravaged star is set to be squeezed out of Red Hill.
Bird's contract will rise to $900,000 next season, putting huge pressure on Brisbane's salary cap. The 24-year-old has suffered cruel luck since joining Brisbane, managing just 17 games in two seasons due to shoulder, sternum and knee operations.
Bird is the second highest-paid player at the club behind Anthony Milford, but Seibold made it clear during his 36 player reviews on Wednesday that no player would be guaranteed a position next season.
On the comeback trail from a knee reconstruction, Bird is stuck behind emerging young guns Kotoni Staggs and Gehamat Shibasaki in the battle for centre starting berths.
That has opened the door for the Dragons, who signed Bird, a Wollongong product, to their under-20s in 2013 before he moved to nearby Cronulla to launch his NRL career two years later.
The Broncos are under pressure to sign an experienced playmaker and jettisoning Bird would free-up the salary cap funds to allow Brisbane to explore the player market.
The conundrum for the Broncos is that Bird is contracted until the end of next year with a further 12-month option in his favour, which he can feasibly activate to remain at Red Hill until 2021.
Bird's manager, Chris Orr, confirmed he had requested permission to explore the market but said it was not a sign that the premiership-winning centre had failed to settle under Seibold's regime.
"Jack is happy at the Broncos," Orr said.
"No one from the Broncos has attempted to push Jack out of the club.
"The reason I requested permission was due to industry rumours suggesting there was interest from other clubs in Jack at a time when the Broncos are reviewing their roster.
"We've been up front and transparent with the Broncos.
"I didn't expect it to create the interest it has. Jack has had two injury-plagued years, but he has no issue with Anthony Seibold or the club and he would like to play a major role with the Broncos next season."
The Broncos are happy for Bird to fight for a starting spot but would consider a subsidised deal if a rival club, such as the Dragons, issued a lifeline.
Broncos legend Darren Lockyer, a member of Brisbane's recruitment-and-retention committee, said clubs faced enormous salary-cap pressures if the type of big-money deal brokered for Bird did not pay dividends.
"The one thing about footy clubs, when you sign someone to the top echelon, it needs to work for you because if it doesn't there is a ripple effect," Lockyer said.
"If you don't get those big decisions right it can impact on your salary cap in a major way.
"The 2020 season is a big year for Jack. It is not his fault, he's had some injuries and he hasn't been able to stay on the footy field which is a shame.
"He was playing decent footy this year before his knee injury so maybe he can fight his way back if he stays around."
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