It’s official – Jack Bird is flying the coop.
Bird will leave Cronulla to join Brisbane on a four-year contract, reportedly worth $4 million.
Bird will feature for Wayne Bennett’s Broncos having burst onto the State of Origin scene with NSW last year. The utility player was weighing up offers from Brisbane and Newcastle as well as Cronulla but is now expected to line up at five-eighth alongside Anthony Milford for the Broncos next season after Ben Hunt’s decision to join St George Illawarra.
The 22-year-old has played 55 matches in the NRL for Cronulla since his debut in 2015 including last year's grand final victory over Melbourne, with the final year of the deal an option in Bird’s favour.
It is understood a number of Sharks senior players and coach Shane Flanagan attempted to sway Bird to remain in the shire.
One teammate disappointed to see Bird leave is Valentine Holmes, who dismissed the notion that losing players was a factor of winning a premiership.
“When you look at Melbourne, they’ve won a few [premierships] and they’ve still got some of the best players there,” he said.
“I guess it’s just where your heart is. You have to look after yourself and your family but… he’s obviously played Origin. He will play [for] Australia eventually. Teams will want him. He’s a really good player and his marketability-wise is really good. He’s a popular boy and I’m happy for him.
“Someone will have to fill his spot there. And we’ll just have to move on and that’s it.
“I’d be disappointed not seeing him every day I guess. But it’s the best thing for him, I suppose. I’ll still keep up with him outside of footy. It’s not like we’re going to hate each other. It’s a big deal he’s about to do.”
It is understood Cronulla had made Bird its highest ever financial offer to secure a current player but could not match the multi-million dollar deal offered to Bird to join the Broncos.
Flanagan said in a statement that he was “terribly disappointed.”
“On behalf of the coaching staff and players I am terribly disappointed that Jack has decided to move on considering he made his NRL debut at our club, was the NRL Rookie of the Year, made his debut for Origin and won a premiership all within the space of just over two years,” he said.
“Since debuting for us in 2015, our club has played a major role in developing Jack into a State of Origin level player which is a testament to the talent identification and player development systems we have in place. We look forward to steering many more of our talented young players along a similar journey in the years to come.”
Flanagan said he expected Bird to remain committed to the Sharks for the rest of the season.