True Blue Greg Alexander believes Penrith’s Matt Burton will be a better five-eighth by the end of his NRL career after his dominant performance in the Panthers 20-14 win over the Sydney Roosters last round.
Burton has shifted between centre and five-eighth for the Panthers this season but had a field day in the No.6 jumper against the Roosters after scoring two tries, making three line breaks, six tackle breaks, one forced dropout, four goals from five attempts, running for 212 run metres and kicking for 339 metres.
“I think we need to watch Matty Burton a couple of seasons in a row if you had to judge, but he’s turned himself into such a good centre because he can read where the space is and I haven’t seen a young player be able to hit a hole like Matt Burton for quite some time,” Alexander told Mornings with Matt White on SEN.
“Even when it seems unlikely there’s a hole to run into, Burton will pull himself into position before the pass is thrown, or even after the pass is thrown, to get through defence – so he’s a very good hole-runner.
“I think in the end he’ll be a better five-eighth, he’ll be a better half and he’s going to be a big half.
“He’s a big boy, he’ll get stronger as he develops and we saw his footwork on the weekend, his ability to beat James Tedesco twice to the try-line was incredible, and he’s got a great kicking game.”
While Burton’s instrumental role on Saturday will make the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs even more impressed about their 2022 recruit, his ability to take control of the contest in a depleted Panthers outfit has justified Penrith’s decision to keep him at the club despite rumours of an early release.
“We had a reasonable idea (of Cleary and Luai playing Origin), Matt Burton was always going to be there just in case something happened to our top line halves, and in the end Matt Burton has – because he’s such a good player – won himself a starting spot in the centres,” Alexander said.