Gold Coast Titans coach Garth Brennan concedes Bryce Cartwright lost his way over the past 12 months but insists he’s the man to help him resurrect his NRL career.
For Cartwright, his release from the Penrith Panthers to the Titans on Saturday was just as much about where he was going as where he was leaving.
His relationship with Brennan stems back to when he played under him in the Penrith Panthers juniors as a skinny teenager, and to this day remains one of Brennan’s closest friends.
“I’ve worked with Bryce since he was 17,” Brennan told NRL.com.
“I’m really close to Bryce. If you speak to Gus (Panthers general manager Phil Gould) I think he’ll make comment that I am probably the only coach that’s going to get the best out of Bryce because of our relationship together.
“He is a good guy. He comes from a good family. Yeah, he’s probably lost his way a little bit the last 12 or 18 months but he’s a good guy and I’m really excited to work with him going forward. I’m really excited to get him back playing the sort of football I know Bryce can play.”
As reported by NRL.com on Wednesday, the Panthers were growing frustrated with Cartwright and let him know during the pre-season that he needed to rekindle his form in the 2018 Telstra Premiership after a disappointing season last year.
It was plagued by off-field issues that has left Cartwright with plenty of mental and emotional scars.
The Panthers stuck by him, however the club was also aware he still had another four years to run at the club and couldn’t afford to have one of their highest-paid players on the bench for most of the season.
Brennan knows some at Penrith believe he may never be the same person or player yet again, however he has backed himself to get him back on the right path.
“He’s in a good place, Bryce,” Brennan said.
“His partner has had a baby. He’s very settled down now. He’s only 23. Young guys make mistakes. He hasn’t committed any crimes.
“He just needs some guidance and I feel like I can be the person who can help him develop, not just as a footballer, but as a person as well.”
Cartwright was expected to break into the State of Origin arena in 2017 such was the high opinion of him after a breakout season the previous year.
He’s now fallen off the representative radar but Brennan hasn’t forgotten the player he once was.
“I think he is probably the most skilful player that I have ever coached,” Brennan said.
“Some of the things Bryce can do on a football field, no other players can do. He’s a game-breaker, there’s no doubt about that. He’s still got a lot to learn. There’s a lot of development left ahead of him to become the player I know he can be.
“It’s a massive boost for the Titans for someone of Bryce Cartwright’s potential and talent to want to come up and continue his career at the Gold Coast Titans.
“He’s not just a player for me. He’s someone I have a lot of time for. We’ve stayed good friends and been in contact with since I got up here. It just happened to be the case that he felt like he needed a change.”
NRL.com has been told the Panthers won’t be contributing to Cartwright’s contract for the next four seasons.
He is expected to arrive at the Titans on Wednesday and start training with his new teammates before the end of the week.