Despite several attempts to stir up some feelings heading into Sunday’s grudge match against the lowly Wests Tigers, Panthers star Matt Burton opted to go down the respectful route when chatting with reporters on Wednesday afternoon.
On a cold winter’s night back in early June, Penrith’s historic 12-game winning streak to start the season came to an abrupt end at the hands of the Tigers in what was a fiery and spiteful clash at Leichhardt Oval.
With seven players missing due to Origin commitments, one player suspended, a handful of debutants and a new halves pairing, losing to a hungry – bordering on vengeful – Tigers outfit has remained in the minds of Panthers fans since that chilly evening on June 4.
And while the supporter base hasn’t quite moved on and are desperate for some sweet revenge this weekend, the players seemingly have put it past them – well, publicly at least.
Speaking with the Weekender this week, centre Matt Burton – who was playing in the halves alongside Tyrone May back in Round 13 – played it safe when asked about coming up against the Wests Tigers once again.
“Obviously the Tigers are a great side and we’re coming off a good win last week, so we just have to keep building as a side and keep turning up because it’s getting close to the Finals. We’re really looking forward to this weekend,” he said.
With the Tigers officially out of the Finals race after they had 50 put on them by Cronulla last weekend, Penrith have much larger fish to fry in the coming weeks, but they’ll still want to put in a professional performance on Sunday afternoon.
Burton said the 26-6 loss to Michael Maguire’s men stung, but he and his teammates that evening took plenty away from it.
“That one hurt but it’s another challenge for us this weekend and I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.
“I learned a lot out of that game, it was pretty hard having a lot of players out. A lot of us younger guys had to step up and take over and take control, and that was probably the biggest thing I learned out of that.
“They are a great side; they have a lot of talent there. We just have to focus on ourselves and keep building as a side heading into the Finals.”
NSW Blues winger Brian To’o will make his highly anticipated return from injury this weekend, while James Fisher-Harris is back following the birth of his second child.
With the Panthers at full strength for the first time in months, neutral fans watching the game at Redcliffe are in for a treat.
“We sort of went on a downhill slope there for a bit and weren’t playing our best footy, but a lot of players have come back into the side and we’re heading in the direction that we want to,” Burton said.
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.