Bursting onto the NRL scene in 2015 with a breakthrough season, Bryce Cartwright has a very bright future ahead of him.
But after winning the Under-20s and VB NSW Cup for the Penrith Panthers, the 21-year-old’s only focus is on capturing an NRL Premiership to complete the hat-trick at the foot of the mountains.
“That’s the number one goal (for me) at the moment in the NRL to win the competition out here at Penrith,” Cartwright told NSWRL.com.au.
“That’ll always be my number one goal.”
While this year fell horribly short of expectations, Cartwright’s rise to the NRL was a standout highlight for Panthers fans. He was also acknowledged with inclusion in the KARI City Origin side as 18th man.
“It was a good experience,” Cartwright said.
“It was great to hang around a lot of quality players with 'Freddy'(Brad) Fittler as coach as well. I was just honoured to be a part of it. Hopefully I can get in the team next year and play the game.
“Obviously it’s a goal to play State of Origin. For everyone aspiring to it, I think City-Country Origin is a small step you definitely have to take. It was good to see all the experienced players and just be part of the training camp while getting to know the good players in the comp.”
Determined to overturn their miserable season, the Panthers are gearing up for a big campaign in 2016 under new coach Anthony Griffin.
“We’ve put it (last season) behind us,” Cartwright said. “When we found out we have a new coach, it felt like a clean slate.
“We just have to put last year behind us – it wasn’t the best year. We definitely finished below par. If we can keep our fully fit 17 on the field each week, we’ll be right and we’ll do some good things.”
Cartwright has proven himself, patiently serving his time developing through the ranks of the Panthers' junior system. In 2013, Cartwright was an integral part of the Panthers' Under-20s premiership and then confirmed his status as one of the game’s best up-and-coming forwards with a follow-up premiership in the 2014 VB NSW Cup.
“I got my first taste of NSW Cup when I was 18,” Cartwright said.
“That put me in good stead to play in the NRL (after) playing against men for a while. I played a lot of games there and it matured me a lot.
“It’s probably a bit more physical than the NRL. Week-in week-out, it's not as fast but just the physicality of playing against men, getting the body right. Anyone, any young fella coming through that system, it’s definitely going to help them a lot to play in the NRL.”
Although Cartwright is highly capable of handling himself in first grade, the VB NSW Cup quite literally left a mark on him.
“Definitely (my body was hurting more after a VB NSW Cup game than NRL game),” Cartwright said.
“I was really sore after every game. It would take me two weeks to get over each game. You would just play sore every week but I had so much fun playing NSW Cup especially the first year I played when we played at Windsor.”
History shows that it’s a matter of time before Cartwright goes to another level - perhaps even as high as representing his state and country.
“That’s definitely a goal of mine,” Cartwright said.
“I wanted to do that as a kid. But I have to honestly say that my first goal would be to win a comp here before those two.”