Trent Barrett’s lineup at Canterbury continues to take shape with the club announcing the signing of 2022 Penrith playmaker Matt Burton.
Burton had been linked with the Bulldogs since former Panthers assistant coach Barrett was announced as the new coach in July and will partner with a new recruiter, Kyle Flanagan, from 2022 onwards.
It is understood that the Panthers are reluctant to release Burton for the 2021 season, despite Dubbo junior telling the club that he intends to link to the Belmore kit in 12 months.
The Bulldogs announced on Wednesday morning that Burton had agreed to a deal for three seasons from 2022.
Bulldog’s CEO Andrew Hill was very pleased to have added someone of Burton’s caliber.
“Having one of Matt’s abilities wants to be a part of what we build here at Belmore is exciting for everyone involved in the club and all our members and fans,” he said in a club statement.
“Matt is a great talent and someone who was very sought after, so we are very happy that he has chosen to join our club and be part of what we believe is a new beginning for the Bulldogs.
“With a new coaching staff working extremely hard with our players this season and the addition of several new faces, we believe Matt’s signing for 2022 is another big step forward for this club.”
Penrith was philosophical about losing one of his best young prospects.
“While we are disappointed with this result, it is important that we respect Matt’s decision,” Penrith’s CEO Matt Cameron said in a statement on the Panthers website.
“He took special account of an extension of his contract with the Panthers before choosing to continue his career at another club.
“That said, Matt is still fully committed to the Panthers for the upcoming season and we’re excited to see what the team will achieve in 2021.”
Probably one of the hottest prospects in the open market since the clubs were able to start negotiations with players outside the contract on November 1, Burton was limited to five games in 2020.
He came off the bench on three occasions and filled in for Nathan Cleary after being suspended for two matches due to his infamous TikTok incident on Anzac Day.
Cleary’s midfielder Jarome Luai, who went toe-to-toe with Burton for jersey No. 6 that James Maloney left last season, stopped playing in every Panthers 2020 game.
With a calm temperament and a strong kicking game, Burton played the role for NSW with a man-of-the-match performance during the 20s original clash of 2019 together with Panthers teammates Stephen Crichton and Spencer Leniu.
He was called into first class a month later for a dream debut that saw a depleted Panthers suit disrupt a practical Cronulla side during the representative period.
Burton’s move in advance follows confirmation on Tuesday that Cowboys playmaker Jake Clifford would link to the Knights from 2022.
Clifford, 22, will travel to Newcastle after the Cowboys withdrew an immediate release request earlier this month.
The Knights have since signed the injured veteran Blake Green on a one-year deal as they appear to cover all bases in the halves after a horrific injury in 2020.
Clifford are expected to partner Mitchell Pearce in the halves, although the Knights star has not yet put paperwork on paper for a contract extension after next year.