There is “no doubt” Cronulla’s NSW State of Origin star Jack Bird will play for Brisbane in the NRL next year, Wayne Bennett says.
However, the Broncos coach admits he is uncertain about his side’s form ahead of Friday night’s blockbuster against the defending premiers at Suncorp Stadium.
Bird rivalled Cronulla’s 300-game milestone man Paul Gallen in the headlines in the lead-up after reports claimed the Blues utility wanted to backflip on a lucrative four-year Broncos deal from 2018.
Ahead of his 600th game as Broncos coach, Bennett said he felt obligated to “step in” and slam the weekend report that suggested Bird would renege on his reported $3.5 million Brisbane contract.
“I did step in. But we have had no doubt at this club (that Bird is coming to the Broncos),” he said.
“It’s just rumour and innuendo.
“Jack Bird is coming to the Broncos — full stop.”
Sharks centre Bird will miss the match with his future club after being sidelined with a shoulder injury.
While Bennett was adamant Bird would soon be a Broncos player, he was still scratching his head over Brisbane’s current form.
That despite leapfrogging Cronulla for third on the ladder after last round’s record 54-0 win over Gold Coast.
Bennett’s call to start Sam Thaiday at hooker before introducing Ben Hunt to dummy half after 20 minutes worked wonders against the Titans.
Hunt ran amok when he came off the bench, scoring three tries and setting up another two.
But Bennett said he was worried how they would back up against Cronulla in their top four clash.
“My concern at the moment is backing up what we did last week, it’s always an issue up against a quality side (like Cronulla),” he said.
“… it is a big game tomorrow.”
Cronulla have won their past three games at Suncorp Stadium.
Bennett expected the Sharks to lift in Gallen’s milestone game.
“He’s made plenty of enemies and friends along the way, that’s what a good forward is all about,” he said.
Bennett didn’t want to talk up his own milestone, claiming he wasn’t even aware of it until a player brought it up at training.
“It’s not about me,” he said.
STATS THAT MATTER
* Brisbane will look to defeat Cronulla twice in a season for the first time since 2011.
* Wayne Bennett brings up game No.600 as Broncos coach with a 63.9 per cent winning record, claiming 19 of his past 24 matches against Cronulla.
* Paul Gallen will become just the second player to play all of their 300 games for Cronulla, behind Andrew Ettingshausen (328).