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Panthers Matt Burton, Bulldogs should be excited says Peter Sterling


Rugby league great Peter Sterling believes the Bulldogs are the real winners of Penrith’s decision to play hardball with Matt Burton’s contract.

After Burton, who last weekend enjoyed premiership success with the Panthers, signed a two-year contract with Canterbury from next season, the Bulldogs pushed for the Panthers to release the 21-year-old earlier this year.

With the Panthers standing their ground, Burton ultimately found a makeshift home in the centres where he was named in the Dally M Team of the Year alongside Melbourne’s Justin Olam.

Despite playing mostly outside his preferred spot at five-eighth, Burton scored 17 tries for the season and played seven games in the halves when injuries and Origin duties impacted Penrith’s line-up.

While Burton will be a first-choice playmaker at the Bulldogs next year, Sterling said the experience the young gun received this year will be the biggest boost for Canterbury, who finished with the wooden spoon.

“If you’re the Bulldogs, you’re welcoming a young man who’s a premiership winner, who’s played out of position and is only going to get so much better, especially when he moves into the five-eighth role where he will play for the Bulldogs next year,” he told Wide World of Sports’ Sterlo’s Wrap.

“How ridiculous when you look back earlier in the season, with Canterbury saying: ‘Can we have him now? Can we have him now?’

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“Penrith obviously made the right and only decision, and Canterbury now will benefit from that.

“The bulk of first-grade that Matt Burton has played for Penrith this year – the big beneficiaries next season are Canterbury who get a polished player.”

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Sterling was so impressed with what he saw from Burton, he declared the incoming Bulldog a “State of Origin quality player now.”

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However it won’t be easy for the BLues to squeeze him into a side that has Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai as its current halves pairing, and bona fide superstars playing in the centres.

“It’s interesting because if you have a look at New South Wales in the last couple of years… the area where they’ve played players out of position has been in the centres,” Sterling said.

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“There has been Tom Trbojevic, Clint Gutherson, even Jack Wighton has played some footy there… Latrell Mitchell, you would imagine would have a mortgage on one of those centre positions.”

When pushed by host Mat Thompson on where Burton could fit in a Blues side with an embarrassment of riches in the backline, Sterling agreed the No.14 jersey could be the right starting point.

“He’s an Origin player, he’s a grand final winner,” Sterling said.

“He’s 21 years of age and he’s been signed by a club who’s struggled – what a signing that’s proved to be.”

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