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20 stars for 2021 | Matt Burton

Matt Burton will suit up for another season with the NRL’s 2020 minor premiers before he links up with former Panthers assistant Trent Barrett and the new-look Bulldogs in 2022.

With one year remaining on his Penrith contract and the likes of Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai in the prime of their careers, Burton was always going to be a prized recruit after his accomplishments in Penrith’s junior representative ranks.

The 20-year-old Dubbo product steered the Panthers’ Jersey Flegg side to the preliminary final in 2019. In the same year Burton was also selected for the NSW Under-20s side that defeated Queensland 36-10 at ANZ Stadium, where the five-eighth scored two tries and set up another to claim Man of the Match honours.

Burton’s consistent form throughout the year saw him play eight games in Canterbury Cup NSW. He scored three tries, produced five try-assists, forced four dropouts, threw six offloads, and had an average of 175 kick metres, 86 run metres and 17 tackles per game.

Perhaps Burton’s biggest moment was in Round 17 of the 2019 season when he debuted alongside fellow Penrith youngsters Spencer Leniu and Stephen Crichton in a 26-20 win over the Sharks.

The 2020 NRL competition saw Burton make a further seven appearances for Ivan Cleary’s men at both five-eighth and from the interchange, with his best performance coming against the Warriors in Round 4 at Panthers Stadium.

In the 26-0 victory Burton scored an early brace, produced one line-break and line-break assist, had six tackle-breaks, ran for 194 metres including 56 post-contact, recorded 227 kick metres and made 15 tackles with zero missed.

With evasive footwork at the line, a considerable turn of pace and a composed temperament for a playmaker at the age of 20, Burton will continue to be a valuable asset in 2021, be it in the NSW Cup or at NRL level. The upcoming season is set to be an important year for Burton’s development as he prepares to make his mark at Belmore in 2022.