True Blue Matt Burton is desperate to hang onto the No.6 jersey at Canterbury-Bankstown but acknowledges he needs to improve elements of his game to do so.
Burton is looking to have the sort of impact at five-eighth that he’s already had at centre – winning a NRL Premiership in 2021 with the Penrith Panthers and making his Origin debut in 2022 where he scored a try in NSW’s 44-12 Game Two victory.
But as the Bulldogs full squad returned to training this week, Burton said five-eighth was his preferred position.
“I spoke to the coach yesterday … just talking about a position,” Burton said.
“I’m working my backside off to play five-eighth but whatever is best for the team.
“I just like hands on the ball and directing the team around. That’s the player I want to be – to lead the team around.
“(Coach Cameron Ciraldo) spoke to me about how I’m going at the moment and the little effort areas I need to improve.
“I think last year there were stages in the game where I needed to stand up and I didn’t really prove that.
“This year if I can work on those little areas it’s going to help the team.”
Burton played 23 games for the Bulldogs this year, mostly at five-eighth but there were eight starts at halfback.
He was called into the extended Westpac NSW Blues squad for Game One this year.
He said after returning to club training late due to his Kangaroos commitments at the World Cup, he wants no interruptions heading into 2024.
“I just want a good pre-season, the last two years I sort of didn’t’ have that being away overseas on tour,” he said.
“So, to have a full pre-season that will do me the world of good.”
There is also the pressure of a swag of new recruits into the Belmore-based club.
“There’s a lot of competitive nature around the building at the moment,” he said.
“There are boys testing each other and I think that’s what we need because it’s the way to go.
“We definitely want to be playing finals footy next year. It’s something we want to strive towards.
“If we work hard now it’s a great opportunity to set ourselves up for the season.”