After our In Focus articles on Burton & Aitken, we work our way to the next of the popular elite centre options with Jack Bird currently at 8.8% ownership. After a few tumultuous years plagued by serious injury in Brisbane, Bird returned home last season and proved himself as one of the better reliable centres, averaging about 42 (new scoring) on the season and only missing 2 games all year (an absolute luxury in a nightmare season for centre options). With the addition of Moses Suli to the Dragons roster, a change in position beckons for Bird with Anthony Griffin suggesting he’ll be using him in a lock forward role.
We’ve seen in recent years that anyone playing in the forwards with centre eligibility, such as John Bateman, Britton Nikora, Tyrone Peachey, Euan Aitken etc. immediately comes up for fantasy consideration and are usually far more reliable in their scoring patterns. I’ve got no doubts this is likely to be the case for Bird as well as he fits a similar mold to Connor Watson or Tyrone Peachey with the ability to bust tackles, offload and ball play to go with the reliable base stats of middle work. We don’t have any reliable previous middle stats to go off for Bird but based on his play style and the success of similar players I’d feel comfortable expecting a PPM in the range of 0.9 to 0.95. The case for Bird is quite an easy one to make. If he was to hit the upper end of that PPM expectation and combine it with a 55+min role, similar to Connor Watson last year, there’s quite clearly 10 points of value making him an excellent keeper centre option available for coaches.
A 50+ average centre seems a no brainer, right? Well, the question marks over Bird begin firstly at the surface level of who he is. He’s versatile. What makes a great footy player in being able to play an array of varying positions, is often bad for fantasy coaches and Hook has said he’s likely going to take advantage of that versatility. Owning Bird may mean constantly sweating a Team List Tuesday to see if he’s still named at a Lock or has Hook had enough of a young 5/8 and moved him to the halves? Has Suli fallen asleep in his car again and now Bird’s at centre? Not to mention the possibility of an in game injury forcing a shuffle, though the inclusion of Moses Mbye on the bench may save coaches there. Secondly, the Dragons in their infinite money ball wisdom, have stacked their roster with a number of middle forwards capable of big minutes (De Belin, Lawrie, Alvaro, Molo, McGuire, Woods, Burgess, Kerr). So you have to ask, in this pack is Bird going to get the desired 55 mins in the middle regularly?
It is certainly possible Bird does get this role or perhaps he spends some time on an edge to facilitate the big forwards and help manage the workload of a 32-year-old Tariq Sims. I’m sure we’re likely to get more information about the specifics of Bird’s role closer to the season as of right now all we have to go on is that Hook wants to “get him closer to the ball“. As it stands, I’m comfortable saying Bird will be an end of season keeper but the question is do you start with him? For me, Aitken is much more reliable early season prospect with more certain value/price rises and with the amount of solid cheap options around I’m leaning towards skipping Bird for now and reassessing come origin time.