Brennan: I asked Carty if he wanted to quit
Gold Coast coach Garth Brennan asked Bryce Cartwright if he wanted to quit the NRL following the former Panther's shocking debut season at the Titans.
Cartwright is the fittest he has ever been after bouncing back from the horror show that was 2018 and may start his road to redemption on the Sunshine Coast this weekend.
The NSW Origin hopeful arrived on the Gold Coast with big expectations last year after being released from Penrith on the eve of the NRL season.
But he barely fired a shot for the Titans, having little impact with the ball and showing next to no defensive commitment as former players savaged his attitude and efforts.
Cartwright's performances were so bad that Brennan, his long-time mentor, questioned whether he wanted to play the game or get a job in the real world.
"We're close and we had that one-on-one conversation - do you really want to be a footballer any more?," Brennan told The Courier-Mail.
"He has gone away and done some thinking about it. His actions are showing he wants to give it every chance he can.
"He is a human being. He had a tough year and got criticised in the media, and quite rightly so with some of his performances.
"But that takes a toll on the individual and I wanted to make sure he was okay as a person, not just a footballer.
"If he didn't want to be a footballer then I wanted to try and help him. The last thing I wanted him to be was in a dark place, depressed and not happy because he was being forced to play footy when he didn't really want to do it.
"I've got to think of the welfare of my players. That was part of the conversation I had with him last year. If he didn't want to play, I was there to help him be happy in life."
Cartwright, 24, responded by producing a pre-season that has left Brennan and his teammates in awe.
At 193cm and a trimmed down 106kg, Cartwright has the physical presence to be an attacking weapon for the Gold Coast in the back-row.
The Titans will face North Queensland in a trial match at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Saturday, which could be Cartwright's first appearance of the year.
Brennan said it was now up to his $500,000-a-season star to prove he was up to it.
"At the end of the day it comes down to Bryce now," he said.
"He's got himself in really good shape physically and is in a good space with his head.
"It's up to him. He's got to want to put his head where you wouldn't put your foot.
"That's got to come from within Bryce. We can't coach him on that anymore.
"That's about him making a decision - do I want to do it or not?
"He has busted his arse in the pre-season and shown me the signs of someone that wants to do it.
"If he didn't want to do it he would be lazy and looking for shortcuts. He wouldn't be making the sacrifices he is making if he didn't want to give himself every chance.
"He is showing all the signs that he wants it, but we're not going to know until we get out there and he puts his body on the line."
Cartwright was sent to the Intrust Super Cup last year to find form and confidence after a series of incidents where he avoided tackling opponents.
But after watching him in the pre-season, Titans lock Jai Arrow reckons Cartwright is destined to dominate in 2019.
"I'm expecting him to come out firing," he said.
"He is looking in really good shape. He is big and the best I've seen him.
"I'm seeing a lot of skills from him on the paddock. I can't wait for round one to see what he can do.
"He is definitely a lot more comfortable. He is enjoying his footy and time on the Gold Coast.
"He has had a full pre-season and got to know everyone. I can't wait for him to rip in."
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