Arthur pep talk gives Cartwright an Eels reality check

Joel Gould |

Bryce Cartwright’s challenge thrown down by Eels coach Brad Arthur is spurring him on in 2024.
Bryce Cartwright’s challenge thrown down by Eels coach Brad Arthur is spurring him on in 2024.

Bryce Cartwright had one of the best campaigns of his career in 2023 for Parramatta but his coach Brad Arthur pulled him aside on the first day of pre-season and told the second-rower he had more to give.

It was an inspirational chat that lit a fire in the talented forward.

Cartwright was one of the Eels’ best in the trial win over Gold Coast on Sunday. He scored a try, set one up, had three offloads and made 25 tackles in a complete game against his former club.

Last year the 29-year-old played every NRL game of the season, the first time he’d done so since his breakout year at Penrith in 2016.

“I had a decent year last year and there was a bit of hunger in my belly to go again and get even better. Brad challenged me to do that on day one of pre-season,” Cartwright said.

“(The conversation) was all about not getting comfortable and being better each week. Brad has been a blessing for me. That’s why I love him as a coach.

“Obviously I have had to change the way I played coming to the Eels.”

Cartwright has challenged himself to be a tougher, grittier forward and more consistent throughout each game.

In his younger days he was a rocks or diamonds performer and often went for the miracle play when it wasn’t on.

“It is about carrying it out of my own end, making a hard tackle, getting to the kick-chase. In the past I probably wouldn’t have done that,” he said.

“I was probably looking to be on a highlight reel somewhere and hear the crowd roar.

“I’m in a team where I don’t need to do those things. I just need to do the one-percenters and whatever is best for the team. They appreciate that more than a try assist or a fancy offload.”

Bryce Cartwright.
Bryce Cartwright takes a hit-up for the Eels against western Sydney rivals Penrith. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

Cartwright is not taking anything for granted as he aims to lock up a starting position for round one against Canterbury on March 9.

The arrival of Samoa international Kelma Tuilagi from Manly has ensured that.

“Kelma has made me push myself a bit more too because he is a quality player,” Cartwright said.

“Between me, him and Laney (Shaun Lane) there is a lot of competition.”

The pain of missing last year’s final series by two competition points is also driving Cartwright.

“It really hurt because with the calibre of players here we definitely should be playing finals,” he said.

“We missed some players but we still had enough to make the finals last year. That is very frustrating but we have moved on from that and we want to be there this year.

“This is just a bunch of blokes I want to play with and for. They mean a lot to me and I don’t want to let them down.”