Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett has hit back at reports Jack Bird will backflip on his four-year deal with the club, with the master coach saying he had stepped in to ensure his star recruit will be at Red Hill next year.
Cronulla Sharks centre Bird has signed with Brisbane until the end of 2021, but speculation of the New South Wales Blues utility reneging on his Broncos contract has been rife after rumours emerged on the weekend that he was considering staying in the Shire.
It has set up a spiteful encounter between the two finals contenders on Friday – a match Bird will miss as he continues his recovery from a shoulder injury.
Speaking on Thursday, Bennett made a point to shut down the gossip, stressing that Bird's future was in Brisbane.
"I did [step in]. I've made some statements in the past 24 hours about it," Bennett said.
"No, we've got no doubt [he's coming]. It's just rumour and innuendo [that he won't]. It's what's been happening all season.
"If it's got anything to do with the Broncos it gets bigger headlines than anything else and people have more theories on it than most things in the game. It just goes with the territory.
"It started off at the beginning of the season with me and it's continued. Now it's 'Jack Bird's not coming to the Broncos'. Jack Bird is coming to the Broncos, full stop."
In the meantime the Sharks will be hoping to cement a top-four position with victory over a Brisbane side high on confidence.
The Broncos are flying after putting 54 points on the Gold Coast Titans last week, with Bennett's new game plan working wonders following a season-ending knee injury to first-choice hooker Andrew McCullough.
Bennett will again use the same tactics as last week, with Sam Thaiday to start at hooker and hat-trick hero Ben Hunt coming off the bench after 20 minutes.
"My concern at the moment is backing up what we did last week. It's always an issue," Bennett said.
"They may be more complacent about their positions. I hope not. It is a big game tomorrow."
Both the Broncos and the Sharks have a chance to jump to second position on the ladder with a win, with the loser set to relinquish their status as a top-four team.