NRL greats Brad Fittler and Andrew Johns have laughed off the idea that Penrith should release Matt Burton.
NRL greats Brad Fittler and Andrew Johns have laughed off the idea that Penrith should release young gun Matt Burton from his contract a year ahead of schedule.
Burton was one of the Bulldogs’ first signings under new coach Trent Barrett, agreeing to head to Belmore for the 2022 season. But with Burton’s path to first grade blocked by Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai and Tyrone May, he has started the season in reserve grade.
“It’s ridiculous,” Brad Fittler said on Wide World of Sport’s The Final Whistle. “Are Penrith in trouble now for keeping him? Leave me alone! It’s not even a conversation.
“No way, he wouldn’t be going anywhere. No way in the world.
“The good thing is, they reckon he’s training the house down.”
Despite calls from the Bulldogs major sponsor Arthur Laundy that Penrith are “not thinking of the lad”, the Panthers are holding firm.
“Let him go, they are standing in a young person’s way,” Laundy said in the lead up to the Panthers’ 28-0 win over the Bulldogs.
Former Panthers general manager Phil Gould conceded that Penrith had an “embarrassment of riches” in the halves and that perhaps they should let Burton leave early.
But Cleary leaving the field early with a head knock – which landed former teammate Dallin Watene-Zelezniak a two-week suspension – on Saturday provided a timely reminder that depth is important, something Andrew Johns said people can often forget about.
“Two weeks out from the finals … Jarome Luai does a hamstring or something. They’re going to bring him back from the Bulldogs and say, ‘You’re playing for us now’?” he said.
“That’s the name of the game. You contract players and it’s not your fault you’ve got a great crop of juniors.”
Regardless of what happens this year, Burton will join the Bulldogs for the 2022 season, along with Melbourne flyer Josh Addo-Carr.