Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has handed the Bulldogs a cruel blow this week, stating exciting young gun Matt Burton won't be granted an early release from the Panthers for the 2021 season, per The Sydney Morning Herald.
The 20-year-old signed a two-year contract with the Bulldogs last month in a deal that will allow him the option for a third-term.
While Barrett has made strong moves in the recruiting sector this year, the former Panthers assistant has been hoping to add Burton to his squad a year prior to the agreed deal.
Cleary has already managed to retain young prop Spencer Leniu for the next two years after the Bulldogs and Dragons had reportedly expressed their interests, and has stated Burton will be playing for 'The Riff' next year.
‘‘We always wanted Matt to stay with us and we presented an offer, which was a good offer,’’ Cleary told The Herald.
‘‘There was always the possibility Burto might decide to leave, and that was always going to be purely for opportunity and better money.
‘‘But we were clear from the start he wouldn’t be granted a release for 2021 if that did happen. That hasn’t changed, we’ve been very open about it, and there are two reasons for it.
‘‘Firstly, Matt is a very valuable member of our squad and will make a considerable contribution to our performance next year.
‘‘And we also think it’s best for him personally to stay in our system for another year so he can further develop – it’s our opinion that it’s best for him in the long run he stays with us another 12 months. We know people are agitating for it [an early release] to happen, but everyone has been well aware of our position for a long time.’’
The Bulldogs announced the signing of Storm superstar Josh Addo-Carr to a four-year deal starting from 2022 earlier this week, adding to Barrett's promising squad that remains to have 15 players yet to commit pst 2021.