Despite plenty of summer speculation over a move to the pack, returning Dragon Jack Bird is set to play the 2021 season at centre where he says he can offer the most to the team.
Bird had trained most of the summer at lock and edge back row, with a move to a ball-playing lock role looking even more likely once inspirational skipper Cam McInnes went down with a season-ending ACL injury.
However after playing exclusively at left centre in his side's 28-6 trial loss to the Eels on Thursday night, Bird said staying at centre was his preference – though whatever he does will be dictated by the wishes of coach Anthony Griffin.
"I would probably prefer to play in the centres than in the back row," Bird said.
"It's probably too early for me to jump in the middle. Because coming back from two ACLs, it's a lot of moving around and running.
"It's probably best for my career at the moment to stay in the centres and take it easy. Hopefully when I am older and my body gets a little bigger I can move into the middle."
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Bird's 25 minutes at left centre were most noteworthy for getting through unscathed after not playing since a trial match for Brisbane this time last year, and not playing NRL since May 2019, thanks to consecutive ACL injuries.
It was a quiet stint but did feature one big play when he forced a ball loose with the Eels on the attack before slipping a pass away for a Mat Feagai line break which eventually led to a try to Max Feagai.
"I probably preferred the centres from when I got here. It's up to Hook and what's best for the team, he must've thought it would be best for me to play middle or edge back row," Bird explained of his summer training in the pack.
"I feel like if I am in the centres it will make the team a lot stronger. But we still have some great young centres here but they are learning the game. It would be hard to chuck them straight in and expect them to play.
"I asked what position I was playing on the weekend and he said back row and centre. I said I would rather play centre. He asked why and I said I had played centre at the Sharks for two years and got used to it and moulded myself to it.
"Hook was trying to help my knee out a bit by doing lateral movements and steps, but I'm not much of a stepper anyway. That might come one day when I get a bit of confidence in my knees.
"I've played there for two years and am a lot more confident there and more vocal in meetings with centre rather than middle. I am still getting used to the middle and there are a few big fellas there who know the role better than me."
Bird admitted to plenty of nerves ahead of the Eels trial, despite having a grand final win and five Origin games on his resume.
"It was my first game in 11 months," he said.
"The main focus was just to go out there and get through the game, be confident and get a few touches. I tried that, I didn't do too much out there but I came away unscathed and felt pretty good out there.
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"I was real nervous, when I found out I was playing last week I got nervous then. I had butterflies the whole week. I haven't been this nervous before a game for a long time."
Bird said while the past two years had been very tough, he was happy just to be enjoying footy again.
"It's been pretty tough but I'm still here, I'm still happy," he added.
"As long as I stay injury-free and keep doing things for the team and try and be myself every day. I haven't played much footy, I'm nowhere near the player I was when I first got injured but hopefully I can get there."