Cleary backs rookie Burton to bounce back
Penrith coach Ivan Cleary is confident devastated rookie Matt Burton will bounce back next week after striking out on five field goal attempts against Newcastle.
Playing in just his second game of NRL, Burton had numerous opportunities to secure the Panthers both competition points in Campbelltown on Sunday.
Two of those came from right in front in the final five minutes before fulltime, while his first attempt in golden point cannoned off the right post.
Cleary was proud of the efforts from the 20-year-old, who came into the side following the two-game suspension of star halfback Nathan.
"I thought he was really brave how he just kept standing up," Cleary said.
"I've seen plenty of kids either with field goals or goal kicks, when they're not going so well for you, and then hand it over to someone else."
Burton also connected strongly on his fifth and final look in the 89th minute, however that too sailed wide, leaving the contest in a stalemate.
"I figured the more he took, the closer he was going to get, it's how it turned out. He hit the post," Cleary said.
"He's pretty disappointed.
"(That's) just the way it goes, second game of first grade. Had a lot to absorb over the last couple of weeks coming in to take Nat's role. He'll be better for it."
Cleary rued a lost opportunity to claim the win, having faced a Knights side that lost key pair Mitchell Pearce and Connor Watson inside the opening ten minutes.
Penrith raced out to a 14-0 lead but clearly missed Nathan as they struggled to convert a 46-12 advantage in plays inside the opposition 20-metre zone.
Fullback Dylan Edwards was also out injured.
"I thought we created enough opportunities. But credit to the Knights, they were very brave tonight and kept finding a way to keep us at bay," Cleary said.
The former Wests Tigers coach also explained his decision to drop Brent Naden, saying he wanted to give youngster Stephen Crichton more game time.
"He's certainly a player of the future," Cleary said of Crichton.
"And I had him on the bench for the first couple of weeks but I really wanted to get him into the starting line-up and give him some games there.
"Plus he's our first-choice goalkicker."