Matt Burton’s name keeps coming up in the State of Origin discussion but the versatile Bulldog is keeping his focus firmly on clubland.
The calls for Matt Burton to make his State of Origin debut will only grow louder after the 22-year-old produced a couple of humungous plays in Canterbury’s shock win over the Roosters.
But the man himself has heard it all before and wants to focus instead on the Bulldogs after they snapped a six-game losing streak to relieve pressure on coach Trent Barrett.
The grounded approach helped Burton last year when people were suggesting he should make the NSW team after just a handful of games for Penrith.
He ended up winning a comp at left centre in 2021, but he’s shifted to the more familiar role in the halves now to show Blues coach Brad Fittler that he can fill in anywhere if selected.
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“That’s just a bonus. My main focus is on this team and getting better each week,” Burton told NCA NewsWire.
“You obviously hear a lot about it, but I’m just going to keep working hard. If it comes, it comes. I haven’t spoken to Freddy. It would be a massive privilege to put that jersey on, but I’ve just got to keep doing what’s best for the Bulldogs.”
The difference between winning and losing in Origin often comes down to a couple of plays, and Burton was right in the thick of it on Saturday as he came up with two telling moments against the Roosters.
It was his booming 40/20 that set up Jayden Okunbor’s try midway through the second half, and he was then heavily involved in the tackle that forced Joseph Suaalii over the sideline when the Roosters winger thought he’d tied things up at the death.
“There was a lot going through my head, to be honest,” Burton said when describing the tackle.
“I saw the winger up and I was just trying to get field position. It was lucky enough to come off the boot sweetly. It was nice to get that one away.
“But it was a courageous win from the boys and we’ve just got to keep working hard. That’s got to be the standard now. We’ve got to keep on going forward and getting wins.
“There have been so many close games for us this season so it was really pleasing to get a win for all the fans and members. This is a big win for the club. We’ve been working so hard at training to turn things around.”
The win itself was special, but to do it after a week of distracting headlines took it to the next level.
All the focus leading into the clash was on Phil Gould and Trent Barrett and who was actually in charge of the club after Gould took it upon himself to deliver some hard truths at a video session.
But according to Burton, that advice coupled with some help on the field at training resonated with the players.
“I haven’t had much to do with him, but he’s great to have at the club,” he said.
“It’s really good to have someone like him step in sometimes. He just tries to get the best out of you, and that’s the best thing about Gus. I think a few boys took that upon themselves tonight.
“There’s obviously been a fair bit of noise around this week, but I think that’s the best thing about that win. The boys just stuck their heads down and worked together to do the job we knew we had to do.”
That job is something that is still developing as the club’s new recruits continue to build on combinations in their first season together.
“He’s playing in the halves, and all good halfbacks will tell you that you need a lot of things going well around you. It’s all there for Burto, but we’ve just got to put the right things around him and work out what is the best style of footy for us to play,” Barrett said.
“He’s a special player. You haven’t seen the best of Matty Burton yet, but tonight was a good step forward for him.”