Burton ready to come to injury-hit NSW’s rescue

Jasper Bruce |

Canterbury five-eighth Matt Burton has made a compelling case for State of Origin selection.
Canterbury five-eighth Matt Burton has made a compelling case for State of Origin selection.

Matt Burton is willing to play any position for injury-hit NSW, adamant he is “definitely ready” for a State of Origin recall.

Burton scored two tries in Canterbury’s 44-12 rout of St George Illawarra on Thursday night to put the finishing touches on his case for selection in Michael Maguire’s Blues team to be named Sunday.

“I’ve just been focussing on playing hard here and playing hard for the boys. But if (Origin) happens, I’ll be stoked,” he said.

Burton would be a solid choice in either the centres or halves, the two positional areas where the Blues’ depth is thinnest ahead of the series opener in Sydney on June 5.

Nicho Hynes appears assured of playing halfback for NSW in game one, given his superb start to the season with ladder-leading Cronulla and injuries to game managers Nathan Cleary, Mitch Moses and Adam Reynolds.

That looks to have pitted Burton and Penrith star Jarome Luai in a battle for the five-eighth jersey.

Seven-time Blue Luai had been the’ first-choice five-eighth for three consecutive series until he was axed for Origin III last year in favour Cody Walker, who is now in doubt with a calf issue.

Bradman Best, Kotoni Staggs, Tom Trbojevic and Campbell Graham are also injured and unavailable to play in the centres, the position where Burton played his only two previous Origin games in 2022.

As a centre, Burton won the 2021 premiership with Penrith and earned selection in the Dally M Team of the Year.

Another option could be to select Burton as a bench utility in a bid to avoid the fallout caused by mid-game injuries last series.

Makeshift Blues centres were exploited by the Queensland attack after Trbojevic went off for a head injury assessment and then with a pectoral injury in games one and two respectively.

Burton, though, is not fussed as to where he is selected and is confident he could slot into the centres despite not playing there at club level since joining the Bulldogs in 2022.

“I’ve had a lot of experience (at centre) in the previous years. It’s sort of second nature to me. I’m happy to play anywhere, really,” he said.

“Obviously that versatility helps.

“I’m hoping I can get that call. We’ll see what happens.”

The 24-year-old says he can thank his effort areas for his form and feels “for sure” more ready for Origin than in the past.

“Obviously having that experience in the past helps and I feel like I’m more mature now. I feel like I’m definitely ready,” he said.

“Just my effort areas around the ball, my supports and little things like that (are what have improved this year).”

Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo was reluctant to weigh into Origin matters after the defeat of the Saints but said Burton was only scratching the surface of his potential.

“He’s going a lot better, but the sky’s the limit for him,” Ciraldo said.

“If he puts it all together, this is not going to be a debate about if he’s going to be in the (Origin) team.

“He’s done a fair bit the last couple of weeks to put himself in the frame for that team, and if he gets an opportunity then I’m sure he’ll grab it with both hands.”

AAP