Panthers young gun Matt Burton is being touted as a potential Origin inclusion after just 15 senior appearances.
Dubbo born, Burton made his debut for Penrith in 2019 and has scored eight tries from nine games this season including a hat-trick in the Panthers' Round 11 thumping of the Rabbitohs.
Playing as a centre for the Panthers, Burton's recent form has placed him in contention for a possible Origin bench spot following a recent concussion to Melbourne's Ryan Papenhuyzen, which could see him remain on the sidelines for game one at the MCG.
Burto is having a day to remember in Dubbo! 👀
— Penrith Panthers (@PenrithPanthers) May 23, 2021
"He's in the conversation Matt Burton," Sterling said.
"This is a young man who wasn't really a part of the Panthers' 17 early on but got an opportunity through injury... but if you do pick him as a utility player, you've got everywhere covered.
"He can play anywhere in the backline and he plays like a back-rower as well.
"He's in the conversation, I would think because he's a footballer.
"He was always going to play Origin, he's an Origin player. I think we've seen that early on. But it might come a lot earlier than expected."
HOMETOWN HAT-TRICK 🔥
— Fox League (@FOXNRL) May 23, 2021
Blues coach Brad Fittler was full of praise for Burton when asked about the rising star while speaking about the upcoming selection debate.
“How good has he been? I’m a massive fan,” Fittler said, per The Sydney Morning Herald.
“He can obviously play a lot of positions. He’s in the right place at the right time, all the time - he never misses his assignment.
“I haven’t seen a club team play better in quite a while like Penrith are right now. Experience helps, but Matt seems pretty unflappable.″
Burton is set to depart the currently undefeated Panthers after the 2021 season having signed a three-year deal with Canterbury. The Panthers have reportedly urged Burton to backflip on the deal and remain at Penrith.
State of Origin Game I gets underway on Wednesday June 9 at the MCG. Teams for game one are set to be announced on May 30, with league leaders Penrith expected to have a large contingent of players selected in the series, with Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai and Liam Martin, among others, expected to feature in the NSW side.