First the neighbours, next the state.
That’s the suddenly real possibility for Penrith’s two-try hero Bryce Cartwright, who starred in his side’s last-gasp 20-18 win over arch rivals Parramatta on Sunday.
Cartwright came up with the dramatic game-winner after the siren, showing why NSW State of Origin great Andrew Johns pencilled in the nephew of former Blues forward John Cartwright for game one of this year’s series.
“I’ve grown up playing Parra since I was 12, (so) I always look forward to playing them here at their home ground. Stealing a victory from them is just awesome,” he said.
Now an Origin jumper beckons, and Johns believes Cartwright could be “a point difference in attack” coming off the bench for the Blues against Queensland.
“He can offload – that unstructured defence will bring our halves and running men into the game which could worry Queensland,” Johns said.
Cartwright, who carried a thumb injury into the match, admitted it was difficult to ignore calls for him to be rewarded with higher honours.
“It’s hard not to let it go to your head, but I’ve just got to do my best for the team and be more consistent week to week,” he said.
“Just improve on my performance in the whole 80 minutes of the game and not make any silly errors, do my best for the team. It’s definitely a goal (to play Origin), but the team comes first.”
Just 21, Cartwright, who had a third try against the Eels denied by a close offside call, also revealed he has harboured plans of being a Blue as soon as this year.
“It’s a goal,” he said.
“I’m not too sure if I’m ready but I’m just going to try my best each week and try and be as consistent as I can. If I’m doing my best for the team, yeah, I’d definitely love to play.”
Penrith coach Anthony Griffin said his star second-rower has had a slow start to the season but, while Cartwright is noted for his trademark offloading ability, has shown a marked improvement in defence.
“He’s become a lot more solid on that edge even though it got a bit loose there at times,” Griffin said.
“But he’s playing 80 minutes and getting his job done. He’s got another couple of tries there tonight – he’s going very well.”