Jack Bird is out to remind St George Illawarra what they missed out on and Cronulla what they could be missing next year.
The Sharks star, who turns 22 on Monday, comes into Sunday’s southern Sydney NRL derby with a point to prove to those on both sides of the fence.
In 2014 the Sharks struck one of the biggest blows in the history of the rivalry between the neighbours when they slipped under the Dragons’ guard to sign the Illawarra junior.
Three years later things have come full circle and the NSW representative and premiership winner is once again one of the most in-demand stars on the open market.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan has made Bird’s re-signing a priority with several other clubs, including Newcastle, vying for his signature – although the Dragons have ruled out trying to lure him back to his former club.
Bird says while he holds no grudges against St George, the Sharks-Dragons local derby is always a special day on the calendar for him, considering his history.
“I know it’s special here at Cronulla down at the Dragons but it is a little bit special for myself coming from the Dragons,” he said.
“I’ve got a lot of good mates that I’m looking forward to coming up against this week.
“That was their decision (not to re-sign me) and a little bit of my own behalf, I had to make a big decision.
“I would have enjoyed staying there but it was probably a better move coming here.”
Bird has been named at fullback – after starring in his first game in the No.1 against Canberra last week – but is likely to be moved to the centres to accommodate Valentine Holmes, who returns after a hamstring strain.
Both sides come into Sunday’s clash at Southern Cross Group Stadium with a win and a loss after a streaky opening fortnight but history shows the form guide can be thrown out the window when these sides meet.
Their last encounter in round 23 last year saw the lowly Dragons snap a five-game losing streak to shock the high-flying Sharks – whose 16-game undefeated streak had just come to an end – and Flanagan warned against any hint of complacency.
“It’s been a bit of Jekyll and Hyde with the Dragons, they played really well the week before, their attack was on-song,” Flanagan said.
“Similar to us, we’re back to square one. Local derbies are always tough.
“But if everyone does their job I don’t see why it can’t happen like it did last week.
STATS THAT MATTER
* When playing at home, Cronulla have won their past two, and 11 of their past 17, against St George Illawarra.
* This will be Cronulla’s 1200th first grade match – of which they have won 575 at a rate of 48 per cent.
* The Dragons have missed the least amount of tackles per game this season (13.5).