Matt Burton and Jarome Luai have begun the battle to decide who will fill the Penrith Panthers' vacant five-eighth spot following the departure of James Maloney for France.
Luai, who debuted for the Panthers in 2018, is the consensus favourite for the spot after making a name for himself in the halves during the 2019 season, but the 22 year old has acknowledged there is competition for the no. six jersey in St John's junior Burton.
"There are always other boys fighting for spots and we've got a lot of young talent here, so I need a big pre-season to lock down that jersey," Luai told NRL.com.
Burton, who's already had a taste of what the role requires after filling in for Maloney during a mid-season suspension, impressed in his first-grade debut.
The former Western Rams star laid on a try for Wellington junior Brent Naden just minutes into his first game in the top grade and helped the Panthers secure a 26-20 win over Cronulla.
Despite impressing in that match, Burton was back in the lower grades the following week as Maloney returned.
But now with the five-eighth position open, Luai said the pressure of that would drive both he and Burton to new heights.
"We're helping each other out," Luai said.
"Matty's a good kid and he's got some real talent. So we can help each other out and be more competitive and be hard on each other and we'll only become better players."
Burton, who made a real impact on the wing for Dubbo CYMS in the 2018 Group 11 first grade competition, also earned accolades for his efforts leading the NSW under 20s State of Origin side to victory over Queensland last year.
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