Burns still learns under high ball
They might have come through the Holden Cup system together at the Panthers, but nothing could prepare Rabbitohs winger Braidon Burns for the barrage of bombs he received from Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary when the sides met in Round 6 of the Telstra Premiership.
It was a tough return to the foot of the mountains for Burns who came up with five errors and never looked comfortable under the high ball on a night that saw him peppered with swirling bombs by his former teammate throughout the contest.
Burns – who scored 28 tries from 31 appearances for the Panthers in the NYC – wasn't the first NRL player to be tested by Cleary's kicking game, with Roosters pair Michael Gordon and Shaun Kenny-Dowall found out several times by the youngster.
"The funny thing is I didn't have to deal with too many of his bombs at training because I played centre in the 20s," Burns told NRL.com of their time together at Penrith.
"If his kicking game is on song then I think outside backs – no matter how experienced they are – are going to struggle.
"It's just about getting in the right positions at the right time and having the confidence to go for it.
"You try to get yourself in a position early where you think the ball is going to land, but with his kicks, they were just moving at the last minute which makes it harder to get to them on the full.
"I didn't really help myself because I didn't put myself in the right position early enough but I've learnt from that and I think it showed against the Bulldogs."
Burns admitted his confidence was momentarily rocked following the game at Pepper Stadium, but thanked his teammates for working with him throughout the week to prepare for the next game against the Bulldogs.
The rookie winger was tested from the first kick of the game and showed no nerves as he reeled in a Moses Mbye bomb that set the tone for a vastly-improved performance under the high ball.
"As soon as I got a few of them in that game [against Penrith] it knocked me around a bit but I thought I bounced back well against the Bulldogs," he said.
"I spent a bit of time receiving high kicks from the boys throughout the week and it definitely gave me the confidence to perform well."
While he might have struggled at times in the Round 6 win over Penrith, Burns said it was a great feeling to be back at the place he called home; even if the reception was different to what he was used to.
"It was really good going back out there. There was a familiar feel getting back on the ground, but that was the first time I'd been on the hostile end of the crowd," he said.
"It was good to go back and play in the top level against boys you developed a lot of your skills with. It's great to see guys like Nathan Cleary and Dyl (fullback Dylan Edwards) and a few of the others playing well.
"There are still a few things that I need to work on to give me a bit more confidence, but I'm pretty happy with how things are coming along in the top grade."