Titans coach John Cartwright believes he has found a Greg Bird-clone in young recruit Paul Carter and he wants the aggressive back-rower to push his star Kangaroo for a starting spot as soon as he returns from the World Cup.
The son of former Panthers great Steve Carter – a teammate of Cartwright's for the best part of a decade – Carter has played Australian Schoolboys and for the Junior Kangaroos, and was a star in the Bulldogs under-20s teams in 2011-12.
He spent all of the 2013 season in the Bulldogs' NSW Cup team but with the likes of Bird, Nate Myles, Ashley Harrison and Mark Minichiello all over the age of 28, Cartwright sees the addition of Carter on a two-year deal as not only succession planning but a way to keep getting the best out of his representative stars.
"We've got depth [in the back row] but we've also got a lot of guys there who are at the back-end of their careers," Cartwright explained. "There are a lot of guys in the back row who are in the 30-plus stage so they need some pressure applied to them and we've also got to look long-term.
"Paul's only 21 years of age, going on 22, so he's got a lot of years in front of him and I certainly see him playing first grade at some stage next year."
Carter himself hopes to use Bird as a mentor when he returns from his duties with the Kangaroos and the coach sees plenty of the same tenacious qualities that Carter's father displayed in 242 games for the Panthers.
"He's very, very aggressive. He's a lovely kid off the field but something of a smiling assassin I suppose once he gets out on the field," Cartwright said. "He takes no prisoners and he backs himself. Steve was like that, there was no fear of anyone he played against. He didn't care who they were and Paul is very much the same. I've watched him play a lot through the juniors and NSW Cup at the Bulldogs and he certainly holds no fear of the opposition."
While Carter says he was still in nappies when his father and Cartwright were running around as 'chocolate soldiers' back in the 1980s, he is excited about the prospect of playing under him and trying to earn his maiden NRL call-up.
"I feel that I am [ready for the NRL]," Carter said. "Unfortunately there was a strong playing roster [at the Bulldogs] in my position. I came close a few times last year to getting a crack so hopefully I get an opportunity at some stage throughout the year.
"Wherever you're at there's competition, it's fierce competition, so all I can do is train my hardest and play my best footy and if the opportunity comes up I'll be ready.
"I love competition, it's one of my best traits, I love getting in amongst it and mixing it up with the boys."
And there's arguably no greater competitor in the NRL than the man he hopes to one day succeed.
"I like watching players like 'Birdy'. He's obviously a great role model for me, and Paul Gallen and those types of players who get in there and like mixing it up," he said. "They're aggressive, skilful players and that's what I aspire to be."