Cronulla's Jack Bird will join the Broncos from next season.
Cronulla's Jack Bird will join the Broncos from next season. DAN HIMBRECHTS

Bird won't fly the coop, insists Bennett

WAYNE Bennett has confirmed Jack Bird will be honouring his four-year deal with the Broncos amid speculation the Sharks sensation could backflip and remain at Cronulla.

The Broncos and Sharks come face to face at Suncorp Stadium tonight.

"All this innuendo has been happening all season with us," Bennett said.

"Anything to do with the Broncos makes a bigger headline than anything else and people have more theories on it than most other things in the game.

"It goes with the territory unfortunately. It started at the beginning of the season with me (allegedly losing the support of Broncos players) and it's continued ever since.

"Now it's Jack Bird isn't coming the Broncos.

"Jack Bird is coming to the Broncos. Full stop."

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan hit back over the Broncos' claims that Bird was unhappy at Cronulla and has been treated poorly since he announced he was leaving for Brisbane next season.

"I couldn't give a damn about what Wayne says. Seriously. We look after (Bird), whatever he (Bennett) says I don't read or listen to it.

"Let's be clear: Jack is going to Brisbane."

Bennett has held a heart-to-heart with his forwards as the Broncos coach challenged his big-name stars to stand up to a Cronulla pack led by NSW enforcer Andrew Fifita.

The importance of the top-four clash at Suncorp Stadium was underlined when Bennett summoned his pack for an on-field meeting at the conclusion of Brisbane's captain's run at Red Hill.

Bennett was in deep discussion for almost five minutes as 10 Broncos players stood around him in a tight-knit circle. The group included starting forwards Adam Blair, Ben Hunt, Korbin Sims, Matt Gillett, Alex Glenn and Josh McGuire, plus interchange players Sam Thaiday, Tevita Pangai Jnr, Jai Arrow and Herman Ese'ese.

The super coach was later tight-lipped about the meeting but the Broncos pack is bracing for a bruising encounter with Cronulla's big guns Fifita, Wade Graham, Luke Lewis and Paul Gallen, who plays his 300th NRL game.

"I was telling them what a beautiful day it was. I didn't want them to come inside," Bennett quipped when asked about the forwards-only meeting.

"The Sharks are a challenge and a good football team. They won the premiership (last season) and they are still in this year's competition.

"They are not out of it (the premiership race) by any stretch of the imagination. They are on the same points as we are so there's not much between the teams."

The loser of the clash will almost certainly drop out of the top four into fifth spot and Bennett concedes he is worried about his side's mental state after Brisbane's 54-0 rout of the Titans last week.

"That's my concern at the moment, whether we can back up what we did last week," Bennett said.

"Week two (without injured hooker Andrew McCullough), they might be a bit more complacent in their positions than they were last week.

"I hope not, but it's a big game tomorrow night and we will want to be in that game."

Bennett will be mindful of the havoc Fifita wreaked at Suncorp earlier this season.

In Origin I, the NSW hardman produced a man-of-the-match performance to destroy Queensland 28-4 in the series opener at Brisbane's home ground.

Gillett and McGuire were part of the Queensland pack that was mauled by Fifita, who amassed 168 metres and seven tackle-busts in that game.

The Maroons hit back to muzzle Fifita in the final two games, but Bennett admits Brisbane don't have the Maroons' level of firepower to shut down the Sharks giant.

"You just have to tackle him (Fifita), I don't know any other way to do it," he said.

"We're not the Maroons, we're the Broncos.

"We can't do what the Maroons do, we don't have the players the Maroons have. We have Broncos players so we'll be doing our best with him tomorrow night."

News Corp Australia


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