Bulldogs 'filthy' over Matt Burton development as calls grow for late State of Origin switch

The playmaker won't be available for the Bulldogs this weekend, but Luke Keary can play for the Roosters.

The Canterbury Bulldogs are said to be fuming that Matt Burton has been named 18th man for NSW in State of Origin I, given it means he can't play on Friday night against Newcastle. The Bulldogs are 10th on the NRL ladder heading into Round 13 and are desperate to mount a charge into the top-eight.

But they will be forced to play without Burton this weekend because he's 18th man for NSW. In years gone past the 18th man has been released from State of Origin camp to play club footy the weekend before the big game.

But the 18th man is now part of the game-day team because they can be activated if a player is ruled out due to foul play. That means the Blues can't afford to let Burton play for the Bulldogs this weekend, and the same applies for Maroons 18th man Felise Kaufusi and the Dolphins.

Luke Keary and Matt Burton.
Matt Burton won't be allowed to play club footy this weekend, but Luke Keary will. Image: Getty

But Luke Keary will be allowed to play for the Roosters against the Cowboys on Sunday because he's 19th man - even though he's said to be on standby for halfback Nicho Hynes, who has a slight calf issue. It means there's a very real possibility that Keary could play for the Roosters on Sunday and NSW next Wednesday night, while Burton might not take part in the either of the Bulldogs and Origin games.

Luke Keary and Nicho Hynes.
Luke Keary is on standby if Nicho Hynes can't take his place in the NSW team.

That fact is said to have left the Bulldogs 'privately fuming'. Dave Riccio of News Corp explained the situation on NRL 360 on Tuesday night, saying: “They’re pretty disappointed. This is the third time it’s happened to the Bulldogs and Matt Burton, where he sat as the 18th man for the entire week and been unavailable for the Dogs.

“You’ve got to put yourself in Canterbury’s shoes. They’re attempting to make the finals for the first time in a long time. They also know the heavy influence Matt Burton has on this football team.

“And whether there should be some wriggle room or at least an adjustment on when an 18th player is made available to potentially return to their team. They’re filthy. There’s nothing they can do other than extreme frustration and disappointment that another player from a club that’s got the bye couldn’t sit in the 18th man position and Matt could still be 19th man.”

However there's a chain of thought that NSW coach Michael Maguire is actually planning to promote Burton into the 17 at the expense of one of the four forwards named on the bench. As it stands, the Blues don't have much cover in the backs if one of the starting players goes down with an injury during the game.


Burton can virtually play anywhere in the back-line, but as it stands Hudson Young would be the replacement outside back and Cameron McInnes the back-up option in the halves. On Tuesday, NSW legend Laurie Daley floated the theory that Burton will actually be in the 17 come gameday.

“Surely, I think they may make a late switch,” Daley said on Sky Sports radio. “I think Matt Burton comes into the 17. It’s a gamble going in without that utility player. I get where you’re coming from. If you look at the team, and I like the team, but you try to cover for every scenario that may happen and I would just feel more comfortable with one of those - either Olakau’atu or Hudson Young - being 18th man and Burton in the 17.”

Michael Maguire and the NSW State of Origin team ahead of Game I.
Michael Maguire and the NSW State of Origin team.

Billy Slater has picked outside back Selwyn Cobbo on the bench in case of an injury, and stats show teams that lose one of their backs in the first half of a game lose more often than they win if they don't have an adequate replacement. "It would not shock me one bit if NSW pull a 'swiftie' here and put him in the 17. I can’t believe we aren’t taking a back on the bench," Paul Crawley said of Burton on NRL 360.

“The only option to come in and play in the halves if we get an injury there is Cam McInnes and the options if we get an injury in the outside backs are Angus Crichton and Hudson Young. Yet you’ve got Burton, who’s sitting there and could pretty much fill any position and you could shift things around to make it work.”

Braith Anasta added: “It’s extremely unlucky and unfair to the Dogs. But if you are genuinely a No.18 in Origin these days with the HIAs and being able to come in at any stage, he needs to cover a number of positions if he does come on, they need him there every day to train.”