Matt Burton’s Origin absence frustrates Bulldogs

Jasper Bruce |

Canterbury coach Cameron Ciraldo admits he is frustrated Matt Burton will miss round 13 to serve as NSW’s 18th player for the State of Origin series opener.

Burton has been tasked with the replacement role for the third time in four Origin games and will be with the squad throughout their preparations.

But he will only play in the event of multiple concussions, or one caused by an act of foul play that results in a sin bin.

Neither side has activated their 18th player mid-game in nine Origin fixtures since the rule was introduced.

Burton’s ability to cover the halves and outside backs makes him an ideal candidate for the emergency role.

But the selection has left the Bulldogs in a difficult position – neither able to play their talismanic five-eighth in Friday’s clash against Newcastle, nor likely to reap any reward from the big-game experience that would come with an Origin cap.

Canterbury, 10th on the ladder to start round 13, will hope to make the most of the Origin period as they challenge for their first top-eight finish since 2016.

The bookmakers have the Knights, untouched by either Origin coach, as slight favourites for the game.

In a perfect world for the Bulldogs, Burton would be released to play with his club on Friday and then return to Origin camp ahead of his 18th-man duties at Accor Stadium in Sydney next Wednesday.

“We want guys playing Origin,’ Ciraldo said.

“The type of club we’re trying to build, we want to get as many people with Origin experience as we can.

“But frustrated is probably (the right word). Burto’s been 18th man three times in the last 12 months.

“We know he’s going to be a better player for being around those type of places, but we just wish he would be able to play and then go and be 18th man.”

Ciraldo could run into the same problem if Michael Maguire picks Burton as 18th player again this series.

The Bulldogs are due to play the Sydney Roosters in Gosford ahead of game two.

Compounding the Bulldogs’ concerns, the Blues appear likely to move Luke Keary into the game-day 17, rather than Burton, if Nicho Hynes’s calf injury gets the better of him.

The coach said on this occasion he would not approach the NRL for special consideration to have Burton on deck for the Knights game.

“We’re just worried about getting 17 players to go up to Newcastle,” he said.

Maguire’s decision to replace Bulldogs winger Josh Addo-Carr with Zac Lomax came as a surprise to Ciraldo.

Addo-Carr played all three games in last year’s series and is NSW’s joint top-tryscorer, with 11 four-pointers to his name across 15 appearances.

“Josh is certainly an Origin player,” Ciraldo said.

“Josh has been in really good form lately, we like what he’s doing for our team. That’s what he’s focused on.”