Sharks coach Shane Flanagan has no idea when Jack Bird will re-sign with the premiers – or even what his best position is – as Cronulla turn their attention to locking down the State of Origin representative after retaining grand final heroes Wade Graham and Matt Prior.
A frank Flanagan is “confident” Bird will remain in the black, white and blue despite overtures from Newcastle and Parramatta as the most important piece in the Sharks’ retention jigsaw remains out of place.
Captain-in-waiting Graham and Origin hopeful Matt Prior put pen to paper for two and three years respectively on Friday and Flanagan stressed Bird needed to be locked in sooner rather than later – for the 22-year-old’s sake even more so than that of the club.
“I am confident [Bird will stay], but Jack is a different cat or kettle of fish,” Flanagan joked. “We’ve just got to concentrate on Jack playing good football. Jack has said many times he wants to stay here. We’ll get that done eventually.
“I’d like to think it would be sooner rather than later and for Jack’s football he needs to get it done soon. He’s told me many times he doesn’t want to go anywhere and we’ve just got to get a deal done.
“It’s going to take a little bit of time with Jack and obviously other clubs are going to pinch him from us, but we want him to stay.”
Bird will again start at fullback for Saturday night’s clash against Parramatta and is likely to trade time in the No.1 with Valentine Holmes. And Flanagan has no idea whether Bird’s future might lie there.
“He doesn’t want to play fullback [permanently],” Flanagan said. “He’s a football player and I can put him in any position and he’ll get out there and play. What is his best position? I’m not sure yet. He’s still developing, but at the moment he’s our best right centre and a fullback if we need him to be.”
Free agents Bird and Townsend remain the Sharks’ two priorities in the retention of their premiership side as Flanagan urged veterans Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis and Chris Heighington not to play one year too long.
James Segeyaro remains in contention to make his Cronulla debut after having just his second session with the NRL squad at Southern Cross Group Stadium on Friday having sought a release from English Super League giants Leeds.
Segeyaro is part of Cronulla’s 19-man squad for the Eels clash and Flanagan will wait until Saturday morning before deciding whether to use the former Panthers livewire off the bench as back-up for Jayden Brailey.
“[Brailey’s] going to be a really good player – as I’ve said many times – but it’s just too much of an ask to put the pressure on a young bloke to play 80 minutes,” Flanagan said.
“[Segeyaro] is a lot more advanced than you think he would be after two weeks, but it’s a pretty big ask for him to slot him in there but I’m considering it.
“He’s done everything right this week. He looks healthy and he’s fitted in well this week, but it’s a big ask throwing him into an NRL game after two sessions. It’s a tough one.”