Bryce Cartwright dig at Penrith Panthers vs Parramatta Eels, Round 2, Brad Arthur

Bryce Cartwright concedes he was a “part-time” player when he started his career at Penrith,which is why he wishes he joined Parramatta sooner where coach Brad Arthur has unlocked his true potential.

The comments come just days out from Friday’s western Sydney derby where Cartwright will take on his former club and his first coach in the NRL, Ivan Cleary, who has won three-straight titles in his second stint with the Panthers.

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Cartwright’s stunning revelation came after his dominant display against the Bulldogs where he scored two tries and was one of three players to pick up a maximum six Dally M votes.

Still only 29, Cartwright has come a long way since the young man who debuted 10 years ago against Arthur’s Eels and was touted as a future State of Origin star given his ability to produce one or two moments of magic per game.

But like any good magician, those have since disappeared, with maturity and Arthur’s guidance turning him into a complete footballer who values the simple things over the flashy plays.


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Brad Arthur has helped turn Bryce Cartwright into a star. Picture: Brendon Thorne/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

“I just think last year I had a bit more time on the field and earned a bit more trust with Brad and the team,” Cartwright said when explaining his form.

“I love Brad as a coach. I wish I came here earlier in my career because I think he would have been a bigger help to me from a younger age.

“With age, experience and spending time on the field, it’s helped me out a lot. This is a bunch of blokes that I want to play with, and I don’t want to let them down.”

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Cartwright scored twice against the Bulldogs last week. Picture: Brendon Thorne/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Cartwright spent four years in Penrith and then another three seasons on the Gold Coast in what turned out to be an unforgettable stint before he was poached by Parramatta in a move that went under the radar.

Plenty of people thought Cartwright’s career was at a crossroads, and he was struggling to even get into the 17 with the edge forward playing 10 games off the bench in their grand final year, stuck behind guys like Marata Niukore and Isaiah Papali’i.

But something clicked in 2023, with the one-time All Star scoring seven tries and popping 51 offloads in 24 games as he stripped everything back and emerged as one of the best back-rowers in the competition.

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Those numbers are great, but Cartwright and his coach are more pleased with his defensive stats which include a career-high 94.7 per cent tackle efficiency to start the season, while he’s also averaging a personal-best 15 runs after one game.

He credits Arthur for all of it and just wishes he joined the Eels sooner, although he’s happy for his former Panthers teammates who have enjoyed so much success.

Cartwright started his career at Penrith but was too inconsistent. Picture: Matt Blyth/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

“He’s simplified my game,” he said.

“He’s wanted me to play tough and simple, and then the other things will come off that with a team-first mentality. He reminds me of my dad in some ways because he can be very cranky and loving, so I resonate with that.

“I feel like when I was younger that I was a part-time, inconsistent player.

“I’d do some really good plays and them some really bad plays, but I feel like as I’ve got older over the past couple of years, I’ve turned myself into an 80-minute player with more composure and a team-first mentality. It’s working out for me now.

“I probably didn’t have someone like Brad to rein me in back then (when I was 21). I’m a lot older now and more experienced, and I now realise what it takes to be a complete and consistent first-grader and a team player.

“I probably didn’t appreciate the little things like that when I was 21 – things like kick chases, simple runs in the middle of the field and yardage carries.

“It’s taken a while to learn, and I’m still learning, but like I said, I wish Brad was my coach when I first came into first grade. I’m here now and I’ve got to make the most of my opportunity.”

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