Premiership winner and former Bulldogs and Sharks rake Michael Ennis didn’t hold back in his assessment of Gold Coast Titans star recruit Bryce Cartwright and he’s found support in the unlikeliest of places.
The retired Ennis, who now works as an analyst and caller for Fox Sports, unleashed on Cartwright’s performances since joining the club from Penrith amid some controversy, suggesting the former Panther was “taking the piss” and playing nowhere near the level he was capable of in a Titans jersey.
The 23-year-old came under fire more than once for performance issues during his time at the Panthers, much of which was blamed on a fractious off-field life and personal drama but it appears a fresh start on the Gold Coast’s glitter strip has failed to reignite Cartwright and get the best out of him on the field.
The man tasked with turning around the Titans, coach Garth Brennan was brought to the club on the back of his tremendous man-management record throughout the lower grades at Penrith and had a pre-existing relationship with Cartwright and a number of other recruits when he brought them to the club.
Brennan concedes Carty is struggling
Even Brennan had to concede that Michael Ennis had made some good points in his criticism of Cartwright.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Michael Ennis, he’s a great judge of the game and players and I don’t think he’s too far wrong,” Brennan said.
Switching Cartwright between a ball-playing lock role, a bench spot and most recently the halves alongside Ash Taylor has probably not helped the young forward find form in his short stint on the Gold Coast.
Cartwright has always been touted as a good ball-player with a strong offload game, but his game management and football intelligence have been questioned more than once.
With Kane Elgey dumped for his own performance issues, Cartwright has spent the last two games in the halves alongside Taylor and has struggled for any sort of impact. In particular, seven missed tackles in a nightmare performance against the Canberra Raiders last week led to Ennis’ stinging assessment.
“Cartwright, boy oh boy is he struggling,” Ennis said on Fox League’s Big League Wrap show.
“He’s (Garth Brennan) given him a lifeline and he’s taking th piss up there, Bryce. No two ways about it.
“He needs to show that he wants to be an NRL player, he’s nowhere near NRL standard.”
Mick Ennis’ assessment may sting the notoriously sensitive Cartwright, but it would a level of agreement from his current coach which lands an extra stinging blow.
Out of position, out of form
Speaking to the media ahead of the Titan’s trip to Brisbane to tackle the Melbourne Storm as part of a double-header at Suncorp Stadium, Brennan lent his opinion into the discussion.
“Bryce needs to step up and he’s probably under-performed, but I haven’t helped by playing him out of position,” Brennan said, taking some heat for the decision to switch Cartwright into the halves while also definitely agreeing in-part at least with Ennis’ call.
Penrith fans will be all too familiar with the enigma that is Bryce Cartwright. At his best, he is a devastating edge-runner and gifted ball-player capable of exploiting defensive lapses and creating holes for second-phase play.
At his worst, which he appears a lot closer to right now, he’s a complete non-entity on the park.
A settled return to the back-row would be a good start, but motivating ‘Carty’ could prove Garth Brennan’s toughest job this season.
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