Bulldogs general manager of football Phil Gould has left the door open to giving Penrith rising star Matt Burton a pay rise when he joins Canterbury at the end of the 2021 season.
The 21-year-old has emerged as one of the top talents in the game this season, replacing Nathan Cleary in the halves after showing amazing skills stepping into a spot in the centres earlier this year.
Having played just five games in 2020, Burton was signed to a two-year contract by the Bulldogs on a deal reported to be worth up to $500,000 per season. He was the surprising story of the off-season as the Panthers and Bulldogs tussled for his signature.
Canterbury pushed the Panthers into granting him an early release for this season – but the Panthers held firm and Burton dismissed suggestions he could backflip on the contract signed with the Dogs.
Now we know why.
Not just has Burton been a vital injury replacement for both fullback Dylan Edwards and Cleary at times this season — he has also become one of the best players in the competition.
Gould on Monday night pointed out Burton would have been able to sign a much richer contract than the one he signed in December with Canterbury if rival clubs had a chance to see the red-hot form he has shown this season.
He said there is no way Canterbury’s offer would have been enough to be the standout contender for Burton’s signature after his breakout year.
The coup pulled off by the Bulldogs last year, led by coach Trent Barrett – the former top lieutenant to Ivan Cleary at Penrith – has been highlighted by Burton’s man-of-the-match performance in his team’s win over the Roosters this weekend, where he finished with two tries and was a constant headache for the Roosters defence.
Gould has previously said in public his football philosophy is to upgrade the contracts of players deserving of richer deals in a bid to stop them becoming bitter and eventually leaving the club on bad terms.
He was asked if Burton will receive similar treatment with a potential pay rise at the Dogs.
“What I will say, Paul, is that I’ve never ever, ever in my life had a player underpaid at any club I’ve been that,” he said on Channel 9’s 100% Footy on Monday night.
“They’ve never been underpaid, whether they’re on contract or not.
“Having said that, it’s all a sense of timing, isn’t it? The Bulldogs signed Burton at a time where he had played very little first grade. They signed on potential by Trent Barrett because he had been training and coaching the Panthers all last season, so he knew what potential he had.
“Look, he’s on a two-year deal with the Bulldogs that would not be commenced now with what he’s worth today if he went on the open market. But that’s for a lot of players.