He’s 20, made just one NRL start and suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, but Jack Bird will be a star of the NRL for many years, says Cronulla skipper Paul Gallen.
Bird was magnificent against Sydney Roosters on Sunday, scoring two tries and helping the Sharks to a shock 20-12 victory at Allianz Stadium.
Signed from local rivals St George Illawarra in the off-season, Bird keeps his condition in check thanks to fortnightly injections that cost $28,000 a year.
Gallen took part in a fundraiser to help pay for the treatments four years ago when Bird was a promising junior with the Dragons and he said he’s been delighted to see him now at the Sharks and making such great progress.
“He just has that vision, he’s tough as nails and has a bright future ahead of him,” Gallen said.
“He’s a good level-headed kid who won’t get ahead of himself.
“I have been pushing him to Flanno (Shane Flanagan) from the start but he had to force his way in there and earn his stripes and now he has done that.
“He’s only going to get better and he will get smarter and learn about the game. At the moment he is doing a job for the team.”
Bird said he is on top of his condition thanks to the injections and said hearing such praise from his skipper was a huge boost to his confidence.
“It’s a good feeling, Gal has been through it all. He’s NSW captain and to hear him say all that is a real honour … I am just hear to make him happy,” Bird said.
“I was 16 when I got rheumatoid arthritis and I take a needle ever fortnight. I had a fundraiser when I was 16 and Gal actually came along.
“That’s all under control now but without the needles and my parents I wouldn’t be here now.”