State of Origin 2022: Matt Burton’s breathtaking debut


More than once during the week’s NSW practice runs the ‘rocket rocket’ call sounded ahead of a game scenario that saw the play set up for Burton to cannon the ball 60 yards out and more in the field.

The Bulldogs star handled the added responsibility of being kicked to his ear despite being ‘more nervous than I’ve ever been’ before kick-off.

But left-wing partner and former Panthers teammate Jarome Luai said a solid start was unmistakable given Burton’s temper.

Blues rookies Siosifa Talakai and Matt Burton score a resounding victory.Credit:Getty

“I don’t think he feels the nerves at all – if he does, it doesn’t show,” Luai said.

“He’s played in a few big games now and he’s killed it. I had no doubts, there was no worry for him before the game and whether he was ready or not.


“These skills he has, they’re pretty rare and only the best of the best can do them. His boot is crazy and everyone talks about it, but it probably overshadows some of his other skills which are really quality.

“He’s a football player, he stepped up and he was one of our best tonight.”

Mitchell had been seen by many as an automatic booster once his return from a hamstring injury, already delayed once by a bout of COVID-19.

But Burton’s impressive debut raised the possibility of Mitchell being kept on the ice for the July 13 decider, with the Rabbitohs gun endorsing Burton’s tenure in an Instagram comment after full-time.

Latrell Mitchell supports Matt Burton for Origin III.

Latrell Mitchell supports Matt Burton for Origin III.Credit:instagram

Jack Wighton’s return from his own COVID-19 diagnosis only thickens the selection plot after being NSW’s top left-back at Origin I.

The Panthers’ former connection to Luai, Cleary, To’o and Liam Martin helped put Burton at ease in the Origin Arena and is another consideration for Fittler and his coaching staff.

“They’re weird talents – Jarome, Bizza and Marto,” Burton said.

“They do everything 100% and made my job pretty easy to get into.

“It’s a privilege to put on this shirt and I will continue to work hard, and I hope to be called up for the next game.”

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