Jack Bird has made no secret of his desire to play at fullback or five-eighth and it shapes as a potential key to wrenching the young superstar away from premiers Cronulla.
Off contract at season’s end, the NSW representative is one of the hottest commodities on the open market and is believed to have attracted attention from at least five rival clubs.
Newcastle have made no secret of their desire to get him on their books as they look to rebuild after a lean couple of years.
The Sharks want to lock him up but have a juggling act on their hands with a host of stars looking to renew their deals at the end of 2017 including skipper-in-waiting Wade Graham.
Bird demonstrated his value with a starring performance at No.1 in last week’s rout of Canberra.
He has made no secret of his desire to move from centre – a position he once called “boring” – closer to the action.
He played five-eighth in 2015 – winning the Dally M rookie of the year award – before being moved into the three-quarter line during the Shark’s premiership winning campaign last year.
Bird said he was simply happiest with ball in hand and felt reinvigorated after his stint at fullback on the weekend.
“I knew it’s a position that’s going to be around the ball, I like to be around the ball and that’s where I play my best football,” Bird said.
“On the weekend I started enjoying myself again and I felt alive out there.”
Asked if where he is offered a spot will affect his contract negotiations, he said: “As long as I’m in the 17 it doesn’t really matter.
“But obviously you want to play a position you’re happy in. And if you’re not, you’re not going to play your best football.”
Bird has been named in the No.1 jersey for Sunday’s local derby against St George Illawarra but could be shunted out to the centres to make way for a returning Valentine Holmes.
Holmes hinted that, regardless of the number on Bird’s back, the side would look to go to him more often this year.
“You need to get him around the ball more,” Holmes said.
“You give him the ball and good things happen. He plays well and the team plays well.
“Obviously coming off the back of that win (against Canberra), it was the biggest win they’ve had down there. It’s not like it was a fluke – he’s a good player.
“You’ve just got to try and get him the ball as much as you can, whether he is playing centre or not.”