Bird Swoops Into Origin Calculation
He's been the forgotten man when it comes to State of Origin talk, but Sharks centre Jack Bird sent a not-so-subtle reminder to Blues selectors that he can be the man to turn New South Wales' fortunes around.
Bird - who played in games two and three last year - was given a roving commission by Blues coach Laurie Daley in the 2016 series that NSW lost 2-1, but his name has largely gone unmentioned three weeks out from Game One up at Suncorp.
The former Dragons NYC star came back to haunt his former side with Bird playing a key role as the Sharks fought back from a narrow half-time deficit to emerge 18-14 winners on the road.
After a quiet first half at right centre, Bird turned the game on its head once he was moved to five-eighth with his side down by two and time ticking away.
The 22-year-old produced a stunning offload to put Wade Graham into space and then backed up on the following play to scoop up a loose ball to send Sosaia Feki over for what turned out to be the match-winning try.
Speaking to NRL.com after the game, Bird revealed it was Sharks assistant coach Steve Price's decision to move him to five-eighth with the game on the line.
"I was happy to stay centre but I got the call to go into five-eighth. At the time it was a bit frantic because everyone had to change positions and no one knew what's going on [but it seemed to work out in the end]," he said.
"I played centre for most of the game, obviously, and then with about 15 minutes to go I moved to five-eighth and we put Chad (Townsend) in at hooker. I just thought that I needed to get my hands on the ball a little bit more and try to spark things. We got that try at the end there so hopefully it worked out.
"Playing lock, fullback or five-eighth is a lot different to playing at centre because centres are stuck on one side and don't get as much ball.
"I've said it numerous times that I like to be where the ball is close to the action. I felt tonight that I needed to come in there in the middle in the last 10 minutes and spark something and hopefully I did that."
Injuries and poor form have cast doubt on just who will be named as the Blues look to end Queensland's seemingly endless dominance of the annual event, but based on current form, Bird is doing all the right things to cement the NSW utility spot.
"All I can do is keep playing my best football and try to get another Origin spot," he said.
"My main focus is here at the Sharks, but fingers crossed I get that Origin call up again. Hopefully I've convinced Laurie to pick me in the side, but that's up to him so we'll just have to wait and see in two weeks."
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan was full of praise for the way Bird handled his switch to the middle.
"I thought Jack Bird was our best player by far," he said.
"The way he competed… he put that near try on for Wade, he went to five-eighth for a bit, and his competitive nature just stood out tonight."
This article first appeared on NRL.com