Nathan Cleary’s absence at halfback for the Panthers in tonight’s grand final rematch will open up an intriguing opportunity for young gun Matt Burton to show his worth.
Burton’s name has been at the centre of a standoff between the Panthers and his future club the Bulldogs, since the 21-year-old agreed to relocate to Canterbury under new coach Trent Barrett’s rein.
Burton was one of Barrett’s first signings, agreeing to head to Belmore for the 2022 season. But with his path to first-grade footy this season blocked by Cleary, Jarome Luai and Tyrone May at the Panthers, he has started the season in reserve grade.
Major Bulldogs sponsor Arthur Laundy said Penrith were “not thinking of the lad”, imploring the club to grant Burton an early release to the Dogs, but the Panthers are holding firm.
But tonight’s grand final rematch will be the first opportunity Burton has to showcase his growth since debuting early last season, and turn some heads in the process.
An impressive display could see the youngster come in to favour as Pernith’s go-to halves backup before his departure to Canterbury.
Burton has played just six first-grade games in total across his blossoming career.