In an unexpected position switch, Matt Burton‘s stint as a half for Canterbury may come to an end in 2024, as the club contemplates moving him back to centre.
Having played 47 games for the Bulldogs in either five-eighth or halfback roles, Burton’s possible transition is not a guarantee just yet. However, officials are considering it depending on how other potential halves perform throughout the off-season training.
Those in the know consider Burton a more effective runner than a playmaker. The switch would indeed enable him to capitalise more on this strength.
Given Burton’s recorded 23 games for Canterbury in the previous season, if he transitions back to centre, the Bulldogs will still have a variety of halves alternatives such as Toby Sexton, Drew Hutchison, Kurt Mann, Jaeman Salmon and Blake Taaffe.
Halfback Karl Oloapu‘s future remains uncertain following a significant back surgery; there’s a possibility of high-profile recruit Stephen Crichton stepping up to the five-eighth position, although it isn’t a likely move.
Reliable inside sources from Belmore have confirmed Burton could be returning to the role he played for Penrith in 20 out of his 32 matches. Burton even snagged a try from this previous position in the Panthers’ 2021 Grand Final win against the South Sydney Rabbitohs in Brisbane.
The decision making process is still evolving, as Canterbury’s coaching panel continues to analyse the progression of every player.
Burton will likely get the opportunity to train and possibly trial in the centre position before the final team selection for the kick-off game against Parramatta at CommBank Stadium.
A source voiced their thoughts: “As we still have a time frame of three months, plenty can change. Matt exudes a hardworking and dedicated attitude.”
Yet, concern remains if Burton’s dangerous kicking game might be curtailed as a result of his shift to the wider centre position.
Former Canterbury star, Michael Hagan, who is an ex-premiership-winning coach and five-eighth, is an ardent supporter of Burton’s potential transition.
Expressing his thoughts, Hagan explained how Burton’s physical prowess makes him a suitable centre, adding that Burton’s previously successful stint at Penrith as a centre is a testament to his capabilities. Hagan, however, acknowledges the challenge of incorporating Burton’s kicking game into the new position.
Impressed by Burton’s exceptional physical state this summer, the Bulldogs‘ officials have high hopes for him.