Former dual international Wendell Sailor believes Dubbo junior Matt Burton's departure from Penrith could have the same result as it did for another star 15 years ago.
Speaking on Triple M on Saturday, Sailor was full of praise for Burton.
The 21-year-old enjoyed a breakout season with the Panthers, being named Dally M Centre of the Year and winning the NRL premiership just over a week ago.
"No disrespect to what the Panthers are doing but mate, that's the one that got away," Sailor said.
"It's like [Johnathon] Thurston leaving the Bulldogs, I reckon."
Future rugby league immortal Johnathon Thurston came off the bench for the Canterbury Bulldogs in their 2004 grand final before moving to the North Queensland Cowboys for a chance to play regular first grade in the halves, similar to Burton.
The Bulldogs pushed hard to get Burton across to the club earlier in the season while he wasn't in the first grade squad but Penrith coach Ivan Cleary opted to move the young gun into the centre's which proved to be a masterstroke.
It remains to be seen whether Burton can reach the heights Thurston achieved in a career which included two NRL premierships, State of Origin series wins, and World Cup triumphs.
However, the St John's junior has a fan in Sailor and rugby league immortal Andrew Johns after his performance in the grand final almost made history.
"Matty Burton is an out and out footballer," Sailor said.
"I spoke to Joey [Andrew] Johns during the week, we were talking about the grand final and he admitted Nathan Cleary was man of the match. But he said Matt Burton was every chance of getting Clive Churchill [Medal].
"No centre has ever won the Clive Churchill Medal."
Burton came through the lower grades as a half similar to Thurston and both players have come off the bench early in their careers.
Luckily for Burton, he has a bigger frame than Thurston and could easily end up in the back row later in his career standing at 190cm's tall.
Sailor believes Burton's versatility and athleticism is a big reason he has experienced so much success in just 32 games.
"He's a footballer, you can play him off the bench, centre, five-eighth," Sailor said.
"Think about the kick he took in the centres, he turned his body juggled it and pulled it in.
"Look how the boys celebrated it."
Burton will join fellow Western products Braidon Burns and Brent Naden at the Bulldogs when pre-season starts in November along with Josh Addo-Carr, who has ties to the region.
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