Watching Bryce Cartwright in the Penrith Panthers NYC cup team prior to his elevation to the first-grade squad, good judges of the game knew here was a kid bound for stardom.
Debuting with the Panthers in 2014, Cartwright didn’t disappoint and lived up to all expectations. His form over next two years led to playing City v Country and on the verge of Origin selection, all while driving the Panthers on the path to potential Premiership glory.
Penrith had arguably the best young roster in the competition and looked at 2017 being their year. However, 2017 ended up falling far short of all expectations. Injury and personal problems plaguing both Cartwright and Matt Moylan, two of the best young products produced from Penrith junior ranks in many years overshadowed a disappointing campaign.
For Cartwright, injury and off-field problems led to 2017 being a difficult time for the talented young man. With his private life being exposed in the media and social media, injury and the expectations as a footballer got too much for him.
Panthers boss Phil Gould released Cartwright from the remainder of his contract to link up with former Panthers lower grade coach Garth Brennan and the Gold Coast Titans in 2108. Not an easy decision considering the obvious potential and his family connections to the club. A decision based purely in the best interest of the person and not the player. A decision Gould and the Panthers need to be commended for doing.
Some Panthers fans have been less than accepting of the decision. As a fan, it is their right to disagree. The fact Brennan had been a respected figure at the Panthers, had a big part in Gould’s decision making knowing that Bryce was going to a club that would be able to continue to nurture his on and off-field growth. Had it been any other Gold Coast incarnation the deal never would have been approved.
The Gold Coast has always been a basket case but the arrival of successful lower grade mentor Garth Brennan has most believing he is the man to turn the fortunes of the club around. With a nice mix of players with huge potential and the additions of Cartwright and Rein from the Panthers, the Titans now have a team and coach that will be pushing for a semi Final birth in 2018.
For Cartwright, expectations will be high. Away from the troubles he was surrounded by in Sydney’s west, Titans fans will want to see the best out of their new star player. Although predominantly used by Penrith as a five-eighth, the Titans will play him in his natural position in the second row. It is out wider he can be more effective using his size and ball skills.
If he can form a good combination with fullback Michael Gordon, another new arrival from the Roosters, his ball playing will open up opposing teams. If Cartwright can remain healthy and clear his head of the troubles left behind in Sydney, he may get back to form that will open doors for representative jerseys in 2018.
The Titans have the potential to surprise this season. They have a future representative half in Ashley Taylor, who turned down Wayne Bennett and the Broncos to remain with the Titans. A good indicator this Gold Coast team are headed in the right direction.
They have a solid pack with Ryan James and Jarrod Wallace leading the way. A back row of Cartwright and Kevin Proctor, along with a backline with Konrad Hurrell and evergreen Michael Gordon.
The most impressive element to the Titans is the young talent they have assembled. Garth Brennan is a moulder of young talent and young men. He is respected by the players he has coached and been successful with his teams in the lower grades.
Young up and coming players Keegan Hipgrave, Jai Arrow, Max King and Morgan Boyle will benefit from his coaching, as will Kane Elgey.
I think Cartwright can get back to his best this year under Brennan and break into the NSW squad. I rate him in the Top 5 buys of the season.
It might be too much to think Brennan and the Titans can win the 2018 competition but how do you think they will go this year and what impact do you expect Bryce Cartwright to have on the team and the competition?
Bryce Cartwright: buy or bust?