Penrith’s Bryce Cartwright says the younger him would’ve sulked like a kid had he had gotten dumped to reserve grade a year ago.
But the current, 20-year-old version – the one who led the Panthers to an impressive 20-6 beatdown of premiers South Sydney on Friday night – showed how he’s now all grown up.
Two weeks ago he produced an individual try that forced club great Greg Alexander to label Cartwright the best forward out of the Penrith region in almost 30 years.
And against the Rabbitohs he produced another dynamic 80-minute performance, where he ran for a game-high 193 metres and was involved in two of his side’s four tries – one of which included a magical flick pass.
It was a match-winning knock from a rising star who earlier this year was told to find some form in the NSW Cup.
“Last year if that happened I would’ve just sooked about it and carried on,” Cartwright said.
“But this year when it happened, I just wanted to work hard.
“I was only there for one game. It was tough, but I just needed to put my head down and work hard.”
Over two months on and the accolades won’t stop coming, with another Panthers legend in Mark Geyer calling Friday night’s outing as Cartwright’s breakout game.
“It means a lot coming from `MG’. I look up to him,” Cartwright said.
“It’s not (under) 20s anymore and I’m not treating it like that.
“I owe a lot of things to all the older boys for helping me out and the coaching staff. It’s just good to get the win.”
Coach Ivan Cleary was another to praise the nephew of 1991 premiership-winner John, pointing out that Cartwright has now started the past three games for the team.
“(I’m) not surprised at how well he’s playing,” Cleary said.
“And I’ve said it before, he’s coming off a very big injury last year.
“He’s one of many who didn’t have a proper pre-season, so what he’s doing at the moment is a testament to himself because he’s actually really improved as a professional and looking after himself.
“I thought he had a really good game (on Friday).”