Lockyer backs Bird, but not a top-four finish
BRONCOS legend Darren Lockyer says Jack Bird can succeed at fullback but has urged premiership-hungry Brisbane fans to not expect a top-four finish in 2020.
Bird will don the No.1 jersey made famous by Lockyer when the Broncos kick-off their season against North Queensland in Townsville next Friday.
Coach Anthony Seibold has rolled the dice by shifting Bird to fullback, a position he has played in only three of his 83 NRL games, following two seasons marred by injury.
Seibold indicated early in the preseason that New Zealand international Jamayne Isaako would get first crack at the No.1 jersey, but he has fallen out of favour and been poor in trials.
Lockyer made the bulk of his 355 appearances for the Broncos at fullback and said Bird had the instincts to succeed in the role.
"Jack is a footballer - he is very instinctive and knows where to be defensively and with the footy," Lockyer said.
"From a fullback perspective, that is a good asset. It's a challenge for him but he is enjoying it.
"Speaking from experience playing fullback, you're a lot more involved. You can go anywhere you want on the field.
"Jack's been a bit frustrated through his injuries but I think he's got an opportunity and he will enjoy it.
"He's been hampered by his injuries and body but he's probably the fittest he's been since he's been at the Broncos.
"Jack has probably been honest with Seibs. He is predominantly a right-side centre and Kotoni (Staggs) has been doing a very good job there.
"You'd have to ask Seibs how the conversation went but they've decided to give it a go and it looks like he'll start the season in the No.1 jersey."
Isaako, 23, was being groomed to be Darius Boyd's long-term successor at fullback, but has suffered a remarkable fall from grace in the space of a few weeks.
The 48-game player had a poor Nines tournament and hasn't impressed in trial games, and faces starting the season in the Intrust Super Cup.
"Jamayne is probably a little bit down on form, he knows that," Lockyer said.
"There's a number of players fighting for a position, that's not a bad thing.
"It's up to Jamayne to keep working hard and fight for his spot back."
The Broncos have had a turbulent preseason, with off-field issues and injury concerns creating hurdles in the lead-up to 2020.
They will be without key forwards Matt Lodge (knee) and Joe Ofahengaue (suspension) for the start of the season, and captain Alex Glenn (hamstring) is also in doubt for Round 1.
After finishing eighth last year and bombing out of the finals with a horrific 58-0 loss to Parramatta, Lockyer said finishing in the top four was not an expectation for the club this season.
No club has won the NRL premiership from outside the top four, meaning Brisbane's chances of snapping a 14-year title drought in 2020 could be low.
"No, I don't think so," Lockyer said when asked if top four was an expectation.
"We finished eighth last year. We want to be improving, but while top four is an ambition internally, the guys right now just need to focus on playing well each week and see where that takes them.
"There are no excuses really. They've had limited disruptions in the off-season.
"There's been a couple of injuries to senior players, but Brodie Croft has come to the club and is an organising halfback which the team was in need of.
"There's no reason why they can't be improving this year."
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