There has also been conjecture all summer about the futures of off-contract stars Jarome Luai, Stephen Crichton and Isaah Yeo, although the club will be in a position to trumpet their retention well before the season starts.
Cleary believes trade windows would provide the game with a commercial opportunity, while also eliminating much of the innuendo that surrounds player movement in a free-market system.
“I just think we can do it better than how we’re doing it at the moment,” Cleary told the Herald.
“I worry about where it’s going to head. Other sports do it and it seems to be successful for them. It creates interest, it creates media, there are plenty of ways how you could package it up.
“Fans can get really involved in the process; it’s like fantasy league, that creates fan interaction and that’s what they are into.
“[Contract] values could be more accurate, recruitment processes would be better and more accurate. It feels like it could be better.
“I don’t have the whole answer, I haven’t looked at it that much, but it’s a bit messy at the moment.”
The Panthers are under no obligation to release Burton, who will provide much-needed depth should first-choice halves Nathan Cleary and Luai be unavailable due to injury or representative commitments. Burton was told from the outset that he wouldn’t be released early and Canterbury haven’t been able to change Penrith’s stance despite offering up at least four different players at various stages in a bid to tempt the Panthers into a swap deal.
The situation is an unnecessary and potentially avoidable distraction for a side attempting to go one better after last year’s grand final appearance. Cleary believes there is a better way.
“You get a lot of situations where guys are confused: ‘Am I going or am I staying? Am I on the market or am I not?’” Cleary said.
“That’s one thing we have tried to do, to be nice and upfront about everything. There’s nothing worse than going out playing and then you pick up the paper and you’re getting shopped.
“The easy thing to say is you wouldn’t be able to police it properly. They used to say that about the salary cap, but they got a lot better at doing that.”
Cleary believes two to three windows a season would give players a smooth transition to a new club if they were struggling to break into the NRL at their current one.
“You’re probably going to get some teething problems in the first couple [of windows], so it’s important to not just say it doesn’t work and dump it,” he said. “It’s the sort of thing that would become better over time.”
Adrian Proszenko is the Chief Rugby League Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.