Cronulla captain Paul Gallen has revealed star rookie Jack Bird is conflicted over whether to stick with the Sharks or take up an offer from St George Illawarra.
Bird’s stocks rose after a stellar debut NRL season in which he shone at five-eighth and helped drive the Sharks into the second week of the finals.
He is mulling over an offer to return to his native Wollongong in 2017, after being snatched from the Dragons a little over 12 months ago.
Where Bird starts in 2016 could influence his decision to stay in The Shire or take up lucrative opportunities elsewhere.
He is likely to be shifted from the halves, owing to the arrival of James Maloney (Roosters) and Chad Townsend (Warriors) – a move which has reportedly unsettled the 20-year-old.
He had hoped to stay in the No.6 jumper but has been training at fullback, centre and the halves during pre-season training.
With Dragons playmaker Benji Marshall, 30, nearing the end of his career and off-contract at the end of 2016, Bird is viewed as a long-term halves option by Red V management.
“At the end of the day he’s 20-years-old. It’s a hard decision,” Gallen said.
“I know people sit out there and think `how is it a hard decision when he’s getting hundreds of thousands a year?’ But it is because you build a bond with players and Cronulla we gave him a shot. He’s really close with a lot of the blokes there, especially a few of the older boys.
“Then he was born and raised down there in Wollongong, he’s probably been a Dragons fan his whole life.”
Gallen sat down with Bird several weeks ago but was wary of influencing his decision.
“My biggest message to him was just be happy,” Gallen said.
“Because if you’re happy you’ll play your best football. He asked me about myself and I gave him a little bit of background on why I stayed at Cronulla.
“The biggest message was to be happy. I didn’t want to influence his decision or try to make him stay because at the end of the day he’s got to be happy.”