‘I had forgotten about it’: Cameron Ciraldo backs Matt Burton to return to State of Origin after controversial omission

There are plenty of Blues fans surprised that Matt Burton was left out of the NSW squad for game 2, but the pain of missing out hasn’t affected the Bulldogs five-eighth, with his coach confident that his chief playmaker will be back in the team sooner rather than later.

Burton was 18th man for the series opener, which meant he missed Canterbury’s trip to Newcastle, but he’ll be available for their latest trip north to face a Roosters side that will be without a host of Origin stars including Connor Watson who won the race for the bench utility spot.

To go from 18th man – a role he’s had several times – to completely out of the squad was surprising, but coach Cameron Ciraldo said it hadn’t affected Burton at training this week.

“I had forgotten about it until you guys started asking me about it because he came back on Monday and he’s normal Burto,” he said.

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“He’s excited about playing footy and he’s refreshed after the bye. He’s ready to do the job for the team.

“It’s good for us. We’d love to see him in and around that arena, but we know that when he does reach his potential or gets close to that potential that he’ll be there, no doubt.

“We want players playing in that representative arena and being around it because they come back better players for us, so when the big games come, they’re used to that arena.

“Burto had a little taste of it, and we know if Burto keeps working as hard as he is then he’ll be back there at some stage soon.”

It’s a hard one for Ciraldo because he’s stoked to have one of his best players available this week, while at the same time he wants to see his guys rewarded with representative jerseys.

But one thing he won’t buy into is that Burton was hard done by.

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Burton has been terrific for the Bulldogs this season. NRL Photos Credit: Supplied

“That’s not for me to think about. I’m glad he’s playing for us this week,” he said.

“He’s working really hard on his game. He’s matured so much, he’s grown up so much over the last 12 months. He’s become a father and a really important part of our group.

“We’re just really happy we have him.”

Burton is a huge inclusion for Saturday’s game against the Roosters, with back-rower Viliame Kikau “a chance” of returning from a finger injury after he was included on an extended bench.

The Bulldogs won their first meeting against the Roosters in a wild contest in the wet, and they start the round knowing they can move into the top four this week with a win and a Dolphins loss as they chase a finals berth for the first time since 2016, the last time they beat the Chooks twice in a season.

“I was really interested to see how the boys came back Monday because there was a view that we did have some momentum and the bye could have stopped that,” Ciraldo said.

“But the way the guys bounced back into training, they looked happy, refreshed and keen to be around each other again. Hopefully, we can have the momentum we had before the bye, but we have to go out and earn it again.

“I feel like the results over the past month say we’ve taken those steps forward, but I feel like we’ve been doing that all year.

“We’ve been really consistent, played well in a lot of games, haven’t always got the result and sometimes hurt ourselves in the back end of games.

“But the last six weeks we’ve played some really good footy and had little wins along the way that we’re recognising what they are. We’re starting to get a belief that is growing in our team, in our club and across our community in general.”

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