Bird confirmed to debut for Broncos at centre
Jack Bird will make his long awaited Brisbane Broncos debut on Friday night, eight years after Wayne Bennett recruited him as a 15-year-old at the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Bird, who will line up at left centre for the Broncos against the Wests Tigers in Campbelltown on Friday night, got through the club's final training session on Thursday after earlier being cleared by his doctor.
Tom Opacic will play off the bench against the Tigers with Jaydn Su'a reverting to 18th man.
Bennett said he was just happy the 23-year-old Bird was finally on deck after recovering from off-season shoulder surgery.
"We need to get him started now. We know what he brings, we just want him to bring it here," Bennett said.
Bird certainly is a different type of centre to players in that position Bennett has coached in the past like Steve Renouf, Mark Gasnier and Matt Cooper. He's versatile and a real competitive scrapper who will follow the ball.
"He is a natural footballer and was born to play," Bennett said.
"He doesn't need a lot of information. He knows what is going on out there and does it pretty well.
"I recruited him for the Dragons and he was 15 when I first met him, so I've followed his career and known who he was.
"He's a really competitive guy and a really good bloke. The players have warned to him."
Bennett said he valued Bird's reliability, skills and his competitive nature.
"The other thing he brings is that he can play a multitude of positions for us," Bennett said.
"We need him to play centre right now but in a month's time who knows.
"I think he can play 13. He can certainly play six, certainly play centres and certainly play fullback.
"If he can play all those positions he could certainly play on the wing."
Bennett said the Wests Tigers would be tough opponents and pointed out they had already beaten the Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm who he said were short priced favourites to win the Telstra Premiership prior to the season kick-off.
The Broncos will line up against former teammate Benji Marshall who is back at his spiritual home and in form, a circumstance Bennett said he was delighted about.
"I am really happy [for him] and I encouraged him to go back there last year because it is his home and where he made his career," Bennett said.
"He was a great player there and left for all the wrong reasons, so it is nice to be able to go back and finish your career there.
"He certainly had an influence on us all here and was a pleasure to have here, and was great for some of the younger players."
As for the dominant performance by his forwards last week, Bennett indicated what he wanted from them this time around when it was put to him that they were "great" against the North Queensland Cowboys.
"Greatness isn't built on one week," he said.