'Ridiculous’: Bennett rubbishes Bird to Sharks talk
BRISBANE coach Wayne Bennett has labelled speculation around Jack Bird's sighting in Cronulla as "ridiculous" and is adamant the high-profile recruit will remain at Red Hill next season.
Last weekend in a visit that had the Broncos' blessing, Bird headed back to his former club to watch premiership teammate Luke Lewis farewell Shark Park.
However, it fanned speculation of a possible Cronulla return for Bird, who has struggled with injuries in his first season at Brisbane since heading north on a rich four-year deal.
Off-contract forward Tevita Pangai was also reportedly spotted touring Newcastle's facilities earlier this week, but a bullish Bennett stuck up for his star pair when quizzed on Saturday.
"(Bird will) be at the club next year," Bennett said.
"What are these guys supposed to do? Go around in Broncos gear 24/7 and read from the Bronco bible? I don't operate that way and never have.
"We live in a democracy. (Bird) played in a premiership with Luke Lewis ... why wouldn't he want to go down.
"It's just a ridiculous thing to talk about, to be honest with you."
Asked of Pangai's visit to his hometown of Newcastle, Bennett joked the in-demand forward might be interesting in a mining job.
The Broncos coach also confirmed he had progressed in talks with in-form winger Corey Oates to remain at the club despite the winger attracting strong interest elsewhere.
"I spoke to Corey the other day and the staff as well," Bennett said.
"I think it's tracking pretty good and we all want Corey to stay, so hopefully we can work it out."
Bennett confirmed centre Tom Opacic would take up a deal with North Queensland in a move that would free up some salary cap space to retain Oates.