‘Embarrassed’ Cartwright comes out fighting
Bryce Cartwright admits he was embarrassed during his debut season from hell at the Gold Coast Titans, but he will not quit the NRL.
Cartwright is determined to prove his critics wrong when he kicks off his second season at the Titans in Sunday's Round 1 clash against Canberra at Cbus Super Stadium.
The NSW Origin contender's career hit its lowest point last year when Cartwright was sent to the Intrust Super Cup following a string of defensive debacles.
Ex-players accused Cartwright of not trying, prompting Titans coach Garth Brennan to ask his $2 million recruit if he wanted to quit the game.
But Cartwright has refused to give up, binning "highlights reel" plays and ripping into pre-season training in a bid to bounce back after his 2018 nightmare.
"It was embarrassing, I've never experienced a year like that," Cartwright told The Courier-Mail.
"I let my club, teammates and myself down a lot.
"It's hard to pinpoint what it was. I was a bit behind the eight-ball from the start and it got worse from there. It was pretty hard to come back from.
"It kind of shocked me when (Brennan asked me if I wanted to quit) because that never crossed my mind.
"I can see why he said it to me, but I'm not the type of person to give up. I definitely won't walk away from the game.
"I'll make sure it doesn't happen again."
Brennan, who has coached Cartwright since the under-20s, has never seen the former Penrith Panthers star as fit as he is this year.
Cartwright, 24, made some encouraging defensive plays during the Gold Coast's pre-season trials campaign and will come off the bench against the Raiders.
Now settled on the Gold Coast, Cartwright believes he has given himself every chance of rediscovering the form that made him an NRL sensation in 2016.
"I've had a couple of interrupted pre-seasons and it's shown on the field," Cartwright said.
"If you get a whole pre-season in it goes a long way to you having a big year.
"I'm a lot better prepared. I'm more settled in, I'm not living out of a hotel.
"My son was five weeks old when we moved up here and that was a challenge on its own.
"It's not an excuse - everyone has their own battles to fight, but I'm definitely more settled now.
"I have a lot to prove. I want to repay the faith to the fans. I want to go out there and prove to everyone I'm better than what I dished up last year."
Cartwright switched between lock, second-row and five-eighth last season as Brennan struggled to get his star recruit firing.
In hindsight, Brennan believes Cartwright was destined to struggle last year after being released from the Panthers in February.
"I probably underestimated the trauma of moving away from Penrith," Brennan said.
"He had a really poor pre-season (with injuries) and was told he wasn't wanted by the club he grew up with.
"He had to move to the Gold Coast with a young family without his support network around him.
"I didn't do him any favours by playing him at five-eighth and out of position at times because of necessity for the team. He put the team first and copped the criticism.
"We all know the potential he has, it's up to him now."
Cartwright has not been able to cement a position in 82 NRL games despite having rare attacking talent.
His versatility has contributed to that, but defensive liabilities have also cost him from spending permanent time in the defensively demanding back-row.
Brennan has parked Cartwright in the second row during the pre-season, and he will likely replace captain Ryan James on the left edge during games.
The stars have aligned for Cartwright to reach his potential this season and he is confident he can with the help of right-edge backrower Kevin Proctor.
"Defence hasn't always been my strong suit," Cartwright said.
"I've moved positions over the years and haven't had time to practice in one whole position for a good amount of time.
"This off-season I've spent all my time on the edge. I've practised every day on that one spot. That will go a long way to helping me on the field.
"I've been watching Kevvie Proctor a lot this off-season. If I can play half as a well as he does I'll go a long way to doing that.
"He does all the little stuff right and doesn't worry about the big fancy plays. That's my biggest thing, to not push any passes or things like that.
"I need to worry about what the team needs rather than going for a highlights reel play."