Matt Burton wants to keep playing five-eighth and ‘getting his hands on the footy’
November 24, 2023
Rumours have swirled this week that Matt Burton could be headed for a role swap in the Bulldogs gameplans, shifting from a leadership role at five-eighth to more of a strike weapon from the centres, but when asked, the Canterbury commander says differently.
The rumours first burst to life in the NRL world after the Daily Telegraph suggested it had been floated at Belmore. In the same talks, Toby Sexton, Drew Hutchison, Kurt Mann, Jaeman Salmon and Blake Taaffe were all reportedly floated as potential options. Burton would then shift to centre, like he has done for the Blues and Penrith Panthers in the past, and become more of a third-playmaker option to break games open down the wing.
Burton, who remember is still just 23 and learning to lead a team, says none of that is happening; he believes he will play five-eighth for the Bulldogs when 2024’s first match kicks off in March.
“My preference is certainly to play six, get my hands on the ball and direct the team around, that’s the player I want to be,” Burton told media on Wednesday. “I’m working my backside off to play five-eighth and I have spoken to [Cameron Ciraldo] about little effort areas I need to improve in and if I can do that I can put my best foot forward for the team.”
The Bulldogs captain admits his 2023 campaign wasn’t the greatest, but he’s working on it.
Statistically, he enjoyed a solid season, scoring four tries and kicking 60 goals, as well as setting up 16 four-pointers and 13 linebreaks, but the Bulldogs still slumped to 15th and missed finals.
“There were stages in games last year where I needed to step up and I didn’t really provide that, so this year if I can work on that it will help the team. I want to be a leader of this side and help the boys as much as I can,” the Dubbo junior said.
“It’s only early days and there’s a lot of new faces in the building, so it all comes down to training and how hard the boys are ripping in and how much they want the spots. At the end of the day, that’s the coach’s call. There’s a lot of competitive nature around the building at the moment, there are boys testing each other so I think that’s what we need and that’s where we want to go.
“I don’t think anything is settled, I’ll work hard and train my backside off. [I just need a] good preseason, the last two years I haven’t had a preseason, I was away overseas on tour and then come back.”