Off-contract Sharks star Jack Bird says he can not only see himself extending his stay at the Shire but is also eyeing a more senior role down the track when the current leadership group start retiring at the end of 2017 and potentially even the captaincy one day.
The coming season will be the last for long-serving skipper Paul Gallen and senior forwards Luke Lewis and Chris Heighington seem likely to follow him out the door. Veteran hooker Michael Ennis also hung up his boots following the recent grand final win.
Bird signed a one-year contract extension last season to keep him in blue, black and white for 2017 and while any longer-term deal than two years at a time isn't on his radar right now, would be happy to see himself join the likes of skipper-in-waiting Wade Graham and recently capped Kangaroos winger Val Holmes as the next core group of Sharks leaders.
"I'm only young but I'm learning," Bird said at Wednesday's launch of the 2017 Downer NRL Auckland Nines.
"Obviously without Gal that's been there for a long time, he's captained the club for a long time, Wade's the next captain, I'm just looking at those two."
Along with Ennis, Lewis and Heighington imparting their experience, Bird has been able to soak up plenty in his two NRL seasons so far.
"You just learn a lot from those type of blokes. When they retire you just carry it on and hopefully the younger blokes then look up to you and they learn from you," he said.
"Obviously Wade will be the next captain in line… Hopefully I'm after that but as long as I'm staying at the club I'm sure everything will fall into place.
"I'm only 21 and [I'll] hopefully be one of the leaders in 2018."
Bird added while he hasn't been thinking about his contractual future beyond 2017 just yet, it would be great to keep the up-and-coming generation together.
"I forgot I was even off contract this year but obviously I know Val and Wade are off contract, I know 'Flanno' (coach Shane Flanagan) is going to want to keep us all in the same team but it might not happen, one might have to leave, you never know but that's the plan, for all of us to stay together and build a generation at the club."
Bird said he was "confident" of extending his stay at Cronulla.
"We're working our way to it now. I haven't started anything yet, no talks but I'm pretty confident I will be at the Sharks again beyond 2017, it's just a work in progress," he said.
"I'm not really thinking about it at the moment, I'm just concentrating on my footy and I guess the contract negotiations will sort itself out."
This article first appeared on NRL.com