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Alexander admits Panthers would have Burton “back in a heartbeat”


Penrith legend and current Panthers board member Greg Alexander has admitted that the club would love to have kept a hold of now Canterbury playmaker Matt Burton.

Burton, 21, signed with the Bulldogs last year from 2022 to play in his natural position of five-eighth, with the Panthers using him in the final year of his contract as a centre.

While it wasn’t Burton’s favoured role, he starred in a premiership-winning side, scoring 17 tries from 26 appearances.

Although the club let Burton go in favour of keeping halves combination of Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai, Alexander said the club would take the Bulldog back “in a heartbeat”.

“Of course they would (have him back),” Alexander replied.

“Yeah, of course it would be, he’s a great player to play centre.

“He’d never played centre before, never had he played centre before, he had to learn had to run into space and learn how to perform what he was normally doing one play inside.

“He became the best hole-hitting centre in the game, he would change directions while the ball was coming to him to put himself into space.

“I don’t think anyone realised exactly how fast Matt Burton was last year until he scored a couple of 70 metre tries.

“We’d have him back in heartbeat.”

While in Alexander’s perfect world Burton would still be a Panther, he conceded that it was possible for the club to keep a hold of him due to salary cap restraints.

“The player in his position Jarome Luai played State of Origin last year for us, he was terrific for us,” Alexander said.

“In the salary cap situation the Panthers were in there wasn’t really enough money for Matt Burton to play in the centres.

“It was never going to work, with two outstanding players vying for the same position in the salary cap era.

“You can’t have two five-eighths, keep them both and pay them what they deserve to be paid.

“So, that was it.”

Burton will play his first game for Canterbury when they face North Queensland in Sunday’s Round 1 clash in Townsville.

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