Rugby league Immortal Andrew Johns has made a massive call on Jack Bird ahead of his St George Illawarra debut.
Legendary halfback Andrew Johns believes prized St George Illawarra recruit Jack Bird will make a permanent switch to five-eighth in season 2021, declaring the new rules have presented the boom Dragon a prime opportunity as a playmaker.
Bird has been named in the centres for the Dragons’ season-opening clash with the Sharks at Kogarah Park on Sunday, with Adam Clune set to play five-eighth and Ben Hunt set to wear the No.7 jersey.
While Corey Norman won’t play in Round One as he’s been slapped with a one-match ban for his involvement in a street fight, the former Bronco and Eel is expected to steal the No.6 jersey from Clune in Round Two.
Johns said Bird, who throughout his career has spent brief periods at five-eighth and has mainly played in the centres, has the running game to make the No.6 jersey his own.
“Jack Bird looked strong (in the trials). I think eventually he’ll end up in the No.6 this year, with the new rules and the quicker ruck,” Johns told Wide World of Sports’ Freddy and The Eighth.
“I don’t think you need two ball-players in the halves. You need a dummy-half who can ball-play and then a running five-eighth.”
A six-again call must now be awarded for 10-metre infringements, a rule introduced to reduce stoppages in the game, increase fatigue and ultimately make for a faster and more free-flowing game.
The NRL introduced a similar rule during last year’s competition suspension in a ploy to quicken the game, whereby a six-again ruling is made in the event of ruck infringements.
However, Bird is yet to play a premiership match under either of those rules as he suffered an ACL rupture just two days before Round One of the 2020 season.
Although Johns has high praise for Bird, who made five State of Origin appearances for the NSW Blues across 2016 and 2017, he expects the Dragons to again struggle this season.
“I saw them twice (over the pre-season). I saw them in a trial against Parramatta and they were really poor, and then I saw them in the Charity Shield where they were so far off the pace,” Johns said.
“So between the Charity Shield and Round One they have to improve lengths and lengths to compete against the Sharks. They always get up for that local derby, but from what I saw in the two trials they are in for a long season. They will be battling down in that bottom four.
“Good luck to the Dragons. I wish them well.”