Bird wary of Austin magic

Cronulla’s Jack Bird has been on the receiving end of some Blake Austin magic and is determined not to let it happen again as the Sharks’ finals hopes go on the line.

The two will go head-to-head when the Sharks meet Canberra on Saturday in a crunch NRL clash which will have a big bearing on the top eight chances of both sides.

The last time Bird and Austin opposed each other the Canberra five-eighth put on three tries for Country against City earlier in the year in a performance which put him on the representative radar.

Bird said the Sharks would go a long way to beating the Raiders by shutting down Austin with both sides desperate for two points.

“I played against him in City versus Country and he scored three tries there,” Bird said. “We all know what he’s capable of. We’ve just got to keep an eye on him.

“He’s on the other side (of the field) to me but he tends to roam a bit.”

The Sharks and Raiders go into the clash in ninth and 10th respectively and a win could catapult either side into the eight while a defeat would see them lose ground at a key moment.

Extra responsibility will fall on Austin with Canberra halfback Sam Williams out for up to six weeks with a pectoral injury and will be replaced by Kurt Baptiste.

The Sharks have won four of their last five and have opposition teams looking over their shoulders as they continue to knock on the door of the top eight.

Bird said he not only considered the Sharks a top eight side, he believes they should be in the top four.

“We’ve got the team to make the top four, I reckon,” Bird said. “There were just a few losses there that just cost us.

“We’re not far off. We’re in ninth spot and equal sixth, it’s just for and against is playing against us.

“If we keep winning we’ll move up the ladder and hopefully we can get up to the top eight soon.”

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