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Bryce Cartwright sacrificed more than $300,000 to revive his career at Parramatta, but it was a point-blank conversation with Brad Arthur that convinced the Eels he can be toughened up to fit into the club's uncompromising pack.

Cartwright has begun his first Parramatta pre-season after severing ties with the Titans in September, signing a one-year, near-minimum wage ($115,000) deal after earning an estimated $450,000 on the Gold Coast.

Once heralded as Penrith's future and a NSW Origin squad member, the 26-year-old's fall from grace on the Glitter Strip was dramatic after being released by the Panthers after the 2017 season.

Cartwright is now back in western Sydney thanks to Parramatta's punt on realising his undoubted potential.

And only after Arthur weighed him up one-on-one, the famously hard-nosed coach wanting a commitment to the tough, confrontational footy played by Parramatta at their best.

"The biggest factor [in Cartwright's signing] was when I had the conversation with him I was very open and told him what I thought of his game and where he needed to improve," Arthur told

Bryce Cartwright left the Titans midway through the 2020 season.
Bryce Cartwright left the Titans midway through the 2020 season. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

"We talked about how we could help him and also how he could help us as a team and a club. He was on board with it and agreed.

"Bryce Cartwright - everyone knows there is a player there. He's got a touch of x-factor and his skill level is excellent.

"There's probably not a lot we need to worry about with him skill wise or footy wise.

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"We've just got to improve the style of footy that he's willing to play, and he's open to it.

"We want to change his mentality around that and have him feeling better about his game. He's training excellently.

"There's still a long way to go but we need him to adapt to the style of footy that we like to play. He'll have to earn the right to use the skill set that he's got."

Cartwright is the most notable of several off-season signings by the Eels, joining Tom Opacic, Keegan Hipgrave, Isaah Papali'i, Nathaniel Roache, Michael Oldfield and Joey Lussick as new arrivals.

His drop in form on the Gold Coast led to him being roundly criticised for his on-field efforts in recent years, while his controversial anti-vaccination stance also drew plenty of headlines.

Former NSW hooker Michael Ennis's commentary critique of Cartwright in 2018 – that "he's nowhere near NRL standard" and that his "defence is atrocious" was the most pointed barb of many during his Titans stint.

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Arthur said Cartwright's commitment since joining the Eels could not be faulted, reporting that he was pushing playmakers like Dylan Brown in the early summer fitness stakes.

After the Titans tried him in a few positions, Cartwright is viewed as an "outright back-rower", with Arthur having no interest in him replacing Michael Jennings at centre while he is provisionally stood down over a positive performance-enhancing drug test.

Before the NRL officially signed off on Cartwright's contract he took up training with at the gym of former Kangaroos forward Mark Carroll, and has relocated to western Sydney, following his young family back from the Gold Coast.

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Having had his share of off-field dramas throughout a stop-start 112-game NRL career, Arthur says Cartwright has changed elements of his life away from football as well.

"They're not excuses, but there is always circumstances around everything that happens and why they happen," Arthur said.

"He's had some things that weren't conducive to him playing his best.

"You've got to be happy to play good football. I think he's tidied up a few things in his life.

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"And he knows it's not really his last chance but he knows he needs to reach that potential that is there and he's got to maximise what he gets out of the game.

"He's at a bit of a crossroads. He wants to be in the NRL, not looking at overseas options.  

"He's a fit back-rower and someone that can get through a lot of work.

"That's what we've got to challenge him on, that hard and tough work because it will emphasise his skill level at the end of it."

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Parramatta Eels respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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