BRISBANE coach Wayne Bennett has launched a stinging attack on the Sharks as tensions escalate between the clubs over the handling of Jack Bird’s transfer to the Broncos.
In a major blow for the Broncos, Bird underwent a shoulder reconstruction on Wednesday, with Brisbane’s $3.5 million marquee recruit expected to miss the opening month of the 2018 NRL season.
The development has infuriated Bennett, who is adamant Bird would have been fit for the premiership opener if the NSW Origin utility underwent immediate surgery to correct a shoulder problem.
Bird went under the knife six weeks after Cronulla were eliminated from the finals, prompting Bennett to lash the Sharks for telling the Blues ace he did not require an operation.
There was already bad blood between the clubs after Cronulla flouted NRL guidelines in April by announcing Bird would be quitting the club following his signing with the Broncos.
“I’m really disappointed in the handling of Jack,” Bennett said.
“We didn’t get any information from the Sharks (about Bird’s injury), we got it from Jack.
“Jack knew he had a problem with his shoulder and it wasn’t going away. They assured Jack there wasn’t a problem.
“He brought up some scans, the pictures were pretty hard to see. The scans were not of high quality, so we got him re-scanned and it clearly showed up that he needed surgery.
“We all have a duty of care to our players, regardless of whether they are moving on. Their contracts don’t expire until October 31 and until that date, regardless of whether they are staying or going, you have a duty of care to them.”
Bird carried his shoulder injury into the Australian PM’s XIII clash against Papua New Guinea on September 23, 13 days after Cronulla’s season-ending 15-14 loss to the Cowboys.
Bennett said Bird’s ailment was similar to that of Broncos pivot Anthony Milford, who dislocated his shoulder against Souths in round 14. He will return from surgery a month before the former Sharks centre is scheduled to be fit.
“We have lost a lot of time which is unsatisfactory,” Bennett said.
“If this had all been diagnosed and sorted out correctly, Jack would have been right to start the season.
“Our staff followed it up when he complained about it still being sore.
“He was in the same category as Milford. We kept playing Anthony as well and knew the risks, but we also knew he needed surgery as soon as the season ended.
“Jack’s season at Cronulla finished two weeks before Anthony Milford’s but yet he is at least a month behind Anthony.
“Opportunities have been missed. We’re now a long way behind with Jack’s rehabilitation.”