His moustache may not be quite as good as Reagan Campbell-Gillard’s just yet, but Billy Burns’ growth on the field means they may be NRL teammates before too long.
The Parkes product impressed through the lower grades, earning Australian Schoolboys selection in 2016 as he helped the Panthers claim the SG Ball title.
2018 saw him selected in the NSW Under 20s squad while earlier this year he was one of six young guns to sign a development contract with Penrith, meaning he will be available for selection in the NRL midway through the season.
And while he may only be 20 years old, the skilful second rower has been one of the club’s strongest performers in the Canterbury Cup, scoring five tries in his past two games.
When asked to explain his recent try scoring streak, Burns laughed it off humbly, heaping praise onto his teammates instead.
“The boys are setting a really good platform punching through the middle and I’m just finishing it off,” he said after the team's stunning 30-22 win over Mounties on Sunday.
“I just seem to find my way to the line. Just being around the ball is all I can do really.”
The eight-point win over their previously undefeated opponents was made even more impressive by the long list of Panthers sitting on the sidelines.
The situation was so desperate that Brad Gaut and Adam Fearnley travelled over 400 kilometres to back up on the bench after playing for the Jersey Flegg side at Wagga Wagga on Saturday.
Trailing 22-18 midway through the game, the already undermanned Panthers were then dealt a cruel blow when Matheson Johns was sent to the sin bin.
But they somehow held out the best attacking side in the competition, before scoring 12 unanswered points to seal the side’s third-straight win.
It made the victory all the more satisfying for Burns after a mixed start to the season.
“We started really well and then went through a little bit of a slump,” he said.
“But I think no matter who is in the squad, we know the core of the group is going to get us there and work for each other.
“The boys really dug deep and we came out on top.”