NRL Rd 5 - Eels v Panthers
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 12: Matt Burton of the Panthers is tackled during the round five NRL match between the Parramatta Eels and the Penrith Panthers at Bankwest Stadium on June 12, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The Penrith Panthers are so eager to keep Matt Burton that they are willing to spend the pre-season training the 20-year-old in multiple positions, per The Australian.

Senior sports writer Brent Read stated on Monday that the ploy was put in place to find a place for Burton in the Panther’s starting lineup next season, as well as to ward off the big-money offers that have been tabled for the Dubbo product.

Following November 1, Burton, now in the final year of his deal, was able to begin fielding proposals from rival clubs, with Canterbury quick to state their interest in luring the fringe Panther up the M4.

They are unlikely to be the only serious suitor, however, Penrith won’t be releasing their claws without a fight.

The club’s brass is understood to already be in negotiations with Burton and his management, but with both the Panther’s halves positions locked up by Jarome Luai and Nathan Cleary respectively, they will be forced to think outside the box.

Cleary, currently inside the New South Wales Origin bubble, will be impossible to shift from the seven jersey and Luai, also in the final year of his contract, is expected to secure a rich extension from the club.

Due to this, if Burton wishes to play first-grade with Penrith in 2021, it seems almost impossible that it will be in either the six or seven jersey.

It is for this reason that the Panthers have devised the plan to teach the mature aged recruit to play in the centres as well as the back row.

It is yet to be seen whether the Panther’s ploy will yield dividends, as neither Burton or his management have spoken publicly as of yet.

Penrith’s Grand Final squad has already begun eroding, with bearded winger Josh Mansour set to depart the runners up this off-season.

Like Burton and Luai, Mansour has a year left to run on his contract, however, Read has reported that Penrith have expressed to the veteran that he is free to depart the club.

Read also suggested that Mansour was on the radar of the West Tigers due to ambiguity surrounding Josh Addo-Carr’s return to Leichhardt.

Addo-Carr has already signed an agreement to re-join the Sydney based club for the 2021 season should he be released by the Melbourne. However, there were suggestions earlier in the week that the speedster may stay with the Storm.

Wests Chairman Lee Hagipantelis claimed he had been in contact with Addo-Carr’s management and that the deal was still likely to proceed, irrespective of innuendo.

“We understand that Josh’s intention is subject to a release from Melbourne to return to Sydney,” Hagipantelis said.

“The ball remains fairly and squarely with Melbourne. It seems that every story is somehow brought back to the Wests Tigers in some way, shape or form. The fact is we’re turning things around.”