Bulldogs respond to Matt Burton criticism amid curious Josh Addo-Carr development

Canterbury are already under pressure after their lacklustre round one display.

Cameron Ciraldo has brushed off criticism from league greats Matty Johns and Greg Alexander that Bulldogs five-eighth Matt Burton is not really a No.6 and should be moved back to the centres. The Canterbury coach has thrown his support behind Burton after his side's lacklustre 26-8 loss to Parramatta in round one of the NRL. He's also shut down reports about Josh Addo-Carr's involvement in the round two clash with Cronulla on Friday night.

Johns said this week he'd be putting Burton at left centre to "really stimulate his running game" if he was the Bulldogs coach. While legendary Penrith playmaker Alexander says he's always had doubts about Burton's suitability at No.6 and agrees that a move back to centre - where he's starred for the Panthers and at Origin level - would be the best thing for Canterbury.

Pictured left to right are Bulldogs player Matt Burton, Matty Johns and Josh Addo-Carr.
Matt Johns is among those to question Matt Burton's role amid injury confusion for Josh Addo-Carr at the Bulldogs. Pic: Getty

“When Matt was centre at Penrith he was one of the best centres in the game and I’ve always had my doubts about him being as effective in the six jersey,” Alexander said. “That’s not just from looking at him on the weekend against the Eels, it’s sampling his footy over the last couple of years... I think 'Burto' is a great hole-runner, he’s big, tall and fast. I think centre suits him down to the ground."

Burton played left centre in Penrith's 2021 grand final triumph, but has struggled to have the same influence on games since moving to Canterbury to play five-eighth. Granted, Burton's Dogs are an inferior side to the Panthers team he left but even with a new halves partner in Drew Hutchison in round one, the playmakers failed to get Canterbury's attack firing.

Cameron Ciraldo says Matt Burton can be a 'great' No.6

Ciraldo knows Burton's ability better than most after sharing in his 2021 premiership success as a Penrith assistant coach at the time. The Bulldogs coach says while there's no denying Burton is a brilliant centre, he's also got the potential to be a "great five-eighth" in the NRL.

"He's our five-eighth at the moment," Ciraldo said. "Everyone knows Matt is able to play centre. But he's also got some really good attributes about his game at five-eighth.

"Last week, he kept us in the game with his kicking game when we were on the back foot. When teams are on the back foot, that's a really hard thing to do. We all know Matt can be a great centre but I think he's going to be a great five-eighth as well."


During the round one defeat to Parramatta, Burton attacked almost exclusively on the left side, while Hutchison busied himself on both edges. That's an area where Ciraldo thinks Burton can improve. "Does he need to get more involved? 100 per cent," the Dogs coach said.

"When he touches the ball, good things happen and our team benefits from it. So we want to get him in those positions this week. He's working really hard, he's put himself in those positions at training and we'd like to see it come out tomorrow."

Seen here, Matt Burton being tackled during Canterbury's NRL round one loss to Parramatta.
Matt Burton is tackled here during Canterbury's NRL round one loss to Parramatta. Pic: Getty

Bulldogs not risking Josh Addo-Carr after injury

The Canterbury coach also shut down reports Addo-Carr could make a miraculous recovery from his round one shoulder injury to feature against Cronulla at Shark Park on Friday night. Addo-Carr's inclusion on the extended bench fuelled speculation and club supremo Phil Gould revealed on his weekly podcast that the winger wanted to play against the Sharks. But Ciraldo revealed on Thursday they weren't prepared to risk the flyer, with Connor Tracey named to replace Addo-Carr on the wing.

“He’s done everything possible (but he won’t play). He’s worked 24/7 with the physios to get himself ready, but he’s come up a bit short. He’ll be right next week,” Ciraldo said. “It is a bit random because we thought it was the AC and the clavicle, but there’s a bit more going on there. He’s done really well to put himself in a position to play, but at the moment it’s not worth the risk.

“He did really well at the start of the week. On Monday there was no chance he was playing, but then on Tuesday morning he was really good and adamant that he was going to be right. Yesterday and this morning he wasn’t as good. It’s only round two and we’ve got Connor Tracey there ready to go so it wasn’t worth the risk.”

with AAP