When the clamour for Matt Burton’s services was at its height, with NRL clubs and rival codes alike seeking his signature, Canterbury never dangled the club captaincy as a carrot to re-sign.
“Definitely not, there was no talk about it at all,” Burton said. “I only found out about it last week. We went on a camp and we put a few names down about who we thought should be captain.
“It was pretty crazy, they pulled me aside and told me I was captain. I couldn’t believe it. It was pretty special to get that honour. It’s obviously a great feeling to know your teammates have voted you as captain. It’s pretty special.”
Burton had no shortage of options. At the age of just 22, the star five-eighth had already won a premiership, represented NSW and been part of the Kangaroos’ World Cup-winning squad. There was considerable interest from rival NRL clubs, while his left boot, one of the most potent weapons in the game, made him an attractive proposition for rugby, the AFL or perhaps even the NFL.
Despite Canterbury’s disappointing 12th-placed finish last season, Burton didn’t talk to other suitors, instead signing a five-year deal that will keep him at Belmore until 2027.
“There was a lot of hype and talk but I never wanted to look at [other avenues],” he said in his first interview since re-signing. “There was obviously a few clubs interested but once the Dogs wanted to lock me down, I didn’t really bother looking.
Matt Burton is totally committed to the Bulldogs.Credit:Getty
“I told my manager that here is where I want to be. As soon as I got back from the World Cup, I put pen to paper. It’s pretty exciting.”
One of the reasons Burton was so quick to commit was the appointment of new coach Cameron Ciraldo.
“It was pretty influential,” Burton said. “Obviously I’ve worked with Ciro at Penrith and seen what he’s done there,” he said.
“What he has brought to the club already has been outstanding. I’m looking forward to working with him again. I’ve seen the potential of the club and what they are building. I just wanted to be a part of it.”
Burton sent a scare through the Canterbury camp when he suffered injuries to his left leg that resulted in him undertaking a modified training regime. However, the Dubbo product believes the setback is a minor one that shouldn’t sideline him once football officially returns.
“It’s not really that big a deal, it should be fine,” he said.
When Burton runs onto the field in 2023, he will do so wearing the skipper’s armband, alongside co-captain Reed Mahoney. Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Josh Addo-Carr, Viliame Kikau and Max King round out the leadership group.
“It’s a massive honour to captain this side, it’s something new to me,” Burton said. “I used to captain one of our rep sides back in the day, when I was 15 or 16.
“It’s something you always want to do and to be a leader, it’s pretty special. I never would have thought it would come this early. Reed and I are new to it, but we’re both looking forward to it.”
Burton believes the experience of mixing with the game’s best players during the World Cup will further elevate his game.
“It was awesome to be part of that squad, there are a lot of great players there,” he said. “I learnt a lot and it was great to get that experience and to win it was pretty cool as well. I’ll keep working hard to continue to get better.”
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