Even when he played alongside Dragons teammate Adam Clune in the Berkeley under 13 team, Jack Bird was never sure what position he was best suited to.
"As a kid I played fullback, five-eighth, lock, centre, second-row," Bird said. "My mindset was just to go out there and play good footy, and try my best."
That attitude earned Bird a premiership ring with Cronulla in 2016, five NSW State of Origin jerseys and a big-money contract with Brisbane, before returning home to St George Illawarra this season.
Despite all that, no-one is still sure where the 25-year-old should play.
"I have pretty much made myself out that I can play every position on the field, and that’s a good thing but it’s also a bad thing," Bird told NRL.com.
"I think it is a good thing because I can add value to any team and it is a bad thing because no one knows what the best position is for me to play.
"I don’t even know what my best position is, to be honest."
After injuries limited him to just 17 matches in three years at the Broncos, Bird is just happy to back playing again and he is looking forward to his first Charity Shield against South Sydney in Mudgee on Saturday night.
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He didn’t play at all last season and made his return with a brief stint at left centre against Parramatta last week after the late decision to switch from the forwards, where Dragons coach Anthony Griffin had him training for most of the pre-season in Wollongong.
Bird revealed during a video shoot for Chemist Warehouse that the move to the centres had been his idea and he was now aiming to form a partnership on St George Illawarra’s left edge with winger Jordan Pereira, second-rower Tariq Sims and five-eighth Corey Norman.
"I think the idea for 'Hook' [Griffin] was to play me as an edge back-rower or in the middle for my knee but I am feeling pretty confident in my knee and I feel more comfortable out in the centres," Bird said.
“If I am going to get back to playing good footy I need to be confident and I think me being in the centres is going to help me."
Berkeley to the big time
Bird grew up in Berkeley, south of Wollongong, and was part of junior Illawarra representative teams from a young age but he has not worn the Red V in a premiership match after being recruited by Cronulla in 2014 from the Under 20s team coached by Dean Young and Ben Hornby.
Other members of the team, which made the finals, were fullback Matt Dufty, centre Euan Aitken, prop Addin Fonua-Blake and Clune.
I don’t even know what my best position is, to be honestDragons utility Jack Bird
"Being a local junior I am loving being back at the club and living at home with my family and near all my friends," Bird said. "It feels like I never really left, to be honest.
"Trent Merrin is still here, and I know most of the players. Adam Clune played in my Berkeley under 13s team and I went to school with him at Illawarra Sports High. He is a legend of a bloke and he is a great player.
"Cluney is very smart and he has got his head screwed on. I love playing with him but we haven’t played much together since under 13s so hopefully we get to play a few more games together this year."
Days as a positional nomad
Of Bird’s 84 NRL games for Cronulla and Brisbane, he has played 53 at centre, 24 at five-eighth, three at fullback, three at halfback and one from the interchange bench.
"I feel comfortable at centre because I think that is what’s the best for the team at the moment but I can play any position and no matter what position I play I am going to try my hardest," he said.
"There are not many people who can play a lot of positions. In saying that I have always wanted to have one position down pat, but I still don’t even know what that is. I am trying to figure that out myself."
For now, Bird’s most likely position appears to be left centre at the Dragons as Dufty is expected to start the season at fullback while Norman, Clune, Ben Hunt and rookie sensation Jayden Sullivan are vying for the playmaking roles.
He usually plays right centre but Zac Lomax has a hold on that spot.
While the modern-day centre has been described as a "second-rower with footwork", Bird insists there is a significant difference between the positions.
"Middle and edge back-rower are completely different to centre so you have got to change your role a little bit and defend differently," he said.
"It is pretty hard to defend in the centres so you need to know what you are doing. I am playing left centre at the moment and I am used to playing on the right but I am happy with that."