Bird is finally smiling again after a nightmare season. Image: AAP image/John Gass.
Bird is finally smiling again after a nightmare season. Image: AAP image/John Gass.

Stronger, faster, happier — this Bird’s ready to fly

Brisbane's $3 million man Jack Bird insists he is not a shot duck and has stripped 7kg to prove to Broncos fans he wasn't a dud signing.

Bird will hit the reset button on his Broncos career when he starts at left centre in Thursday night's NRL season-opener against the Storm in Melbourne.

The former NSW Origin utility arrived at Red Hill last season on a four-year contract worth more than $3 million, making him one of the highest paid players in the club's history.

But his debut season was crippled by shoulder and sternum injuries which crushed Bird's confidence and limited him to eight appearances as his weight ballooned to 99kg.

Bird, 23, admitted his move to the Broncos from Cronulla was far from smooth sailing.

"It was tough, it wasn't the season I planned to have," Bird told The Courier-Mail.

"I wanted to come up here and play my best football, but last year just didn't go to plan.

"I signed up here to a good contract. I'm a marquee player and didn't deliver last year.

"It's hard to get on the field when you're injured and your head's not right and body's not right.

"I'm back on the field now and my body is feeling great. Hopefully I can get back to where I was or be even better.

"I'm ready to play this year and hopefully I can have a good season."

 

Fitness and consistency could bring the best out of the 23-year-old. Image: AAP image/John Gass.
Fitness and consistency could bring the best out of the 23-year-old. Image: AAP image/John Gass.

 

Bird arrived at the Broncos needing a shoulder reconstruction which immediately put him on the backburner.

He debuted for Brisbane in Round 3 last year but never looked comfortable as he dealt with a painful sternum problem.

After eight mostly quiet performances, Broncos medical staff made the decision for Bird to undergo season-ending surgery.

A member of Cronulla's historic 2016 premiership-winning team, Bird admits he struggled with life in Brisbane as his career stagnated and he fell out of the NSW Origin team.

 

IT’s been a longtime coming for Bird and the Broncos. Image: AAP image/John Gass.
IT’s been a longtime coming for Bird and the Broncos. Image: AAP image/John Gass.

 

"I wouldn't say I was homesick, I was missing home and my family because it was a tough time I was going through, but it's not like I wanted to move back," he said.

"I was going through a tough time and you want your family and friends close by. I didn't really have anyone up here.

"It was hard but I knew I could get through it. I knew my family were only one call away and they helped me get through it.

"Wayne (Bennett, former Broncos coach) was a big part of that as well. Wayne helped me get through it.

"I want to see the best of me this year. I need to get my confidence back and once I get that back I will start playing better footy.

"I'm happier on the field and my body is feeling good."

 

Anthony Seibold has given Bird new direction. Image: AAP Image/Darren England.
Anthony Seibold has given Bird new direction. Image: AAP Image/Darren England.

 

Bird is back at 92kg and has had a smooth pre-season compared to last year, with new Broncos coach Anthony Seibold making the decision to give him a crack at left centre.

Bird's Broncos contract includes an option in his favour for the 2021 season, meaning next year could be his last in Brisbane if he decides to leave.

But before that Bird wants to rekindle the form which made him one of the NRL's most exciting young players.

"My body is in the right nick, I'm feeling good and happy to be back out on the field," he said.

"I felt like 2016 was my best year on the field and I wish I could get back to that form.

"It's going to take some time. I need to keep training hard and get my body right each week.

"I'm a lot happier, I've got this year and next year, whether I take that fourth year is up to me.

"I'm looking forward to the season ahead and fingers crossed no more injuries."

 

News Corp Australia