The Cumberland Throw

Bryce Cartwright – Eels Seek Bonanza From Low Risk Gamble

Few recent signings have triggered the mix of reactions quite like the Eels acquisition of Bryce Cartwright. From the overjoyed to the disappointed and even the “time to delete my social media posts”, most Eels supporters have openly expressed their opinion.

No matter the opinion, there’s a couple of common denominators that link even the most diverse responses – firstly, the bloke is talented and secondly, his defence and attitude at the Titans was not up to scratch.

Cartwright’s rugby league journey has probably not taken the road that he expected.

After making his debut against the Eels in round 12 of the 2014 season, and rapidly establishing himself as a star of the future at Penrith, Cartwright looked to be on the verge of Origin selection in only his second full season of top grade football. Strong showings for the Panthers and City Origin in 2016 had the versatile Carty in the extended Blues squad.

Injury and off-field personal dramas during 2017 saw Cartwright depart Penrith for a fresh start and a lucrative four year deal at the Titans. Unfortunately for him, the club were on a downhill slide, and his own performances saw him ranked in some quarters as the worst signing of 2018.

Even Cartwright’s most ardent supporters would concede that the big bloke was not close to earning his reported $500K contract. There were still moments of brilliance to be found, but in a team which finished 14th and 16th in his first two seasons, some flaws were readily exposed.

Bryce Cartwright in his first Eels media appearance

Of greatest concern was a lack of commitment to the defensive collision. On the surface, his tackle efficiency doesn’t read too poorly – sitting at 88.3% for his seven appearances in 2020. Indeed, it’s not too dissimilar to Shaun Lane who returned an 88.9% tackle efficiency stat during the last season.

However, compared to Ryan Matterson’s 91.2%, both Lane and Cartwright would be looking to improve their numbers in the upcoming season. Positioned next to the halves on the edges, the back rowers greatly impact the defensive decisions made by those on their outside.

Of course, what’s rarely been questioned is Cartwright’s talent in attack. In only seven games in 2020, he managed 20 offloads. This game average of almost three offloads compares most favourably with Junior Paulo who led the NRL with 54 offloads from 22 appearances. Even the dangerous Shaun Lane could only manage 28 offloads from his full season of games.

In 2019, his last full season with the Titans, Cartwright ranked 19th in the NRL with 33 offloads and was the club’s leading player for line break assists with 7. That’s decent numbers in a team which finished with the spoon.

Should a person earning his salary be capable of leading such stats for his club – most definitely. And it was the right of the Titans to determine whether his performances warranted his pay packet.

Still, that attacking talent is undeniable. Like most Eels supporters, I have nightmares of the Penrith vintage Cartwright creating something out of nothing to engineer wins against Parra. Obviously, that’s all in the past, and the question remains, can he bring it for the Blue and Gold?

In a resume which includes 23 games at five-eighth, and a couple of games at centre and lock, Cartwright has spent the majority of his 112 first grade games at second row or coming off the bench to play on the edge. I would expect that his introduction to top grade with the Eels would be via the bench as a replacement edge player.

With his skill set and unpredictability, Cartwright could probably be compared to Feleti Mateo, and offers a point of difference from the bench that has not been seen since the days of David Solomona or Dean Widders. Given the criticism of the Eels lack of impact outside the starting 13, the enigmatic back rower might be just what the doctor ordered.

Ryan Matterson

At 193cms (6ft 4) and 107 kg, he’s of very similar dimensions to Ryan Matterson. But that’s not the only similarity. Both players also possess a kicking game, which presents an interesting question for Brad Arthur.

During 2020, the Eels coach experimented with his use of Shaun Lane. The towering second rower spent periods in the middle of the park as the team looked to find ways of creating momentum through the ruck. Was this a signal to a more permanent shift? Does this open the way for Cartwright to earn a spot in the starting pack so that the Eels can throw mirror plays on both sides of the ruck?

A lot of water would have to pass under the bridge for that to happen. The new recruit would need to prove to BA that his defence is greatly improved, and it’s reasonable to conclude that the incumbent Lane would get first crack at the starting spot.

Regardless of all of this postulation, the major upside of Cartwright’s signature has been the cost. The former Titan has travelled south on a contract which is a fraction of his deal up on the Gold Coast. He’s earning a base NRL salary from the Eels, literally costing the club little more than a Top 30 spot for his one year deal.

New face at training – Bryce Cartwright

The benefit for Cartwright is the opportunity to prove himself in a team which has played finals footy during the past two seasons. The benefit for the Eels is the potential for Carty to rediscover the type of form which had him on the verge of Origin selection.

Early signs are very encouraging. After spending time with former hard man Mark Carroll in preparation for this preseason, Cartwright has hit the ground running at Parramatta training. His conditioning work has been outstanding, to the point where I would rate him as close to the fittest Eels forward of recent years.

Brad Arthur has a knack of finding the best in players that other clubs no longer want. He might just have found a new Eels x-factor in Bryce Cartwright.

I’m backing him in.

Eels forever!



Images courtesy of Eels media

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It’s perfectly set up to be a great signing for us.He doesn’t have time to ease into it, he has to hit the ground running and as long as he is also mentally up for it I think he will succeed. There were times last year when Lane was poor especially defensively, I do like what he offers in attack but also thought he was good value off the bench .BA has a tough task with some of his selections ,especially the’s going to be a good year.


Think we are looking better than average in the forward stocks this year, some smart recruitment there.

The halves seem a bit thin if either Moses or Dylan go down, with the young Arthur perhaps be logical replacement but still on a development contract.

Then the 3/4 line open up so many questions, particularly the missing centre which does loom large, but with a few players moved on that may leave the opportunity for a late off season replacement. Wait and see is possibly the call, and we may need to.

John Eel

Peter Sterling would say that there is too big a gap between his best performance and his worst. Given that defence is about attitude and effort he has to want to own the collision. That is what will turn his game around in defence. Being hungry for the collision will give him the confidence to play to his capabilities in attack also. He could not have gotten this far (112 NRL games) into his career without having that toughness and aggression. Time will tell and he sounds extremely fit. The first signs will show when they resume from the Christmas… Read more »

Colin Hussey

John, I agree with your comments, as I read the post from sixties and a couple of others here & earlier ones elsewhere, the big aspect to come out is how many are put off by his GC period, & for me that’s not surprising as he quite likely had a feeling that he, owing to size and Riff reputation was carrying a team that was hardly working as a team, and relying on others to do the hard work, and the rest, rest. My mind goes back to his Riff days and how he played against the eels, especially… Read more »


I agree Sixties.I can only see this signing as a win for us.Used in the right way he will give us another X factor.He is a player who unless he has two or more defenders on him can cause havoc and if this happens there is a lot of space for Moses and Dylan to run the ball.Im excited.


Sixties i wasn’t keen on this but have warmed to it like a good pie in the oven. I hope he plays well and is consistent- thats all i hope for. I am like Derek with some concern about the backline in terms of depth and defence overall as MJ was v good at defence. Halves too, with possible Will Smith as recognised half or Roache. I hope the coaches have been training a lot with these reserve halves in such roles, as we may need to call on them. Is Moses back Sixties and how has he looked with… Read more »

Trouser Eel

If Cartwright can consistently show the skill we’ve all seen him produce, BA will firm up his reputation as a Phoenix maker. Spotting underutilised talent and sending out lifelines. I’m still worried about the apparently unsolved issues in the centres which leaves me unconvinced that this will be our year. But you get the sense we’re not far off. I foresee a time where, if the club stays with BA, we’ll collect the trophy with a decent handful of our players being blessed with their second wind via contracts paying unders. It’s a clever strategy that relies on other clubs… Read more »


Our issues in the centres is a defensive issue and from all accounts Opacec is a solid defensive centre.If you watch his highlights clearly he can pass and being inside Sivo you really have one job and that is to pass it.Jennings is a huge loss but I’m happy to give the new bloke a chance.A bigger issue lies on the other side of the field and will hopefully be addressed in the pre season. I think the point most agree upon is that BA can bring out the best in unwanted or unlucky players and Opacec also falls into… Read more »


I couldn’t agree more Trouser Eel. These opportunities which BA has taken and offered to disgruntled players often unwanted at other clubs has been a serious strategy which has worked well for us.


Bryce was also one of the best trainers at the Titans and Panthers.
I hope he goes well but just pointing out he has always be known as a great trainer.


Would love an article on the juniors coming through.
Ive heard good things about Sean Russel and Penisini. How far off are these kids from NRL? What are their age etc?

Ian campbell

He will either be a great aquisition or a waste of money all up to Bryce and his attitude.
Hopefully he will be positive for my Eels


Great read. For me it’s a low risk but that is comes of can be huge. I think when the Eels are at their best they had a Mateo type player that can run riot. If Bryce can get to a level near that watch out NRL


Yeah Sixties, I’m backing Carty in too. An interesting point which you made, was the fact we have not really had creative impact off the bench with the skillset this bloke can produce. Along with Carty we also have another creative addition to the bench in Isaiah Papa la’ii bringing competition in the creative department and a bit of a loose canon in Keegan Hipgrave who brought an anticipation of “something might happen here” whenever he was selected to start or came off the bench for Titans. With our incumbent big body duo of Marata and Oggy and perhaps David… Read more »


I believe we are considerably stronger than 2009 except in the centres but that may change if we can produce another “Reddy” from the competition we have in Oppa, Oldie, Dazzy or others.


It’s good to read that he’s not overlaying his hand at training


Potential 2021 Churchill Meddalist.

John Eel

This is very much off topic but I found it amusing

Tim Blair wrote today “In a bid to make the NRL more relatable to everyday Australians, NRL bosses announce that under new rules the Try lines will now be called Borders, the Sin Bin will become Lockdown and blundering referees will be universally known as Dr Norman Swans”

Not hard to tell I am getting bored. Sorry in advance for inflicting this on the readers of this great site


Apology accepted JE. The DT has never been the same since Mike Gibson stopped writing.

John Eel

BDon you must be nearly as old as me. I can remember as a young apprentice jumping on the train at Revesby with my DT under the arm as only a former paper boy would appreciate.

The first thing I would do is turn to Mike Gibson’s column and read about the footy and his stories on life in general.

Great column great days.


Hi John, Gibbo was also good on Saturday sports with ch 9, and Chappelli.
Great memories.

John Eel

He was a good story teller and I think in the early days he carried Chappelli. However he grew into the role and they became a great team


Hi Sixties. The problem with Cartwright he came on the scene too early, to young, to appreciate what waited ahead of him. Joey John’s recognized his talent but, was concerned such talent did not necessarily have a hard edge. Bringing blokes too early into such a hard game is never a good idea despite their talent. They suffer burnout too early. Cartwright created personal distractions that affected his game at Penrith and then the Titans. We acknowledge he has talent – maybe he had reached a stage in his life that reflects a newfound maturity. That he left a big… Read more »


Sorry Sixties
It’s Zero 58.

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