Carter completes boyhood dream
At just six years of age, Paul Carter would stroll into the Penrith Panthers dressing sheds like he owned them.
He was the only one game enough to ask Mark Geyer to share his jelly snakes that were being handed out after a game while Ryan Girdler and Matt Adamson were in front of the mirrors trying to find ways to hide any scars incurred from the previous 80 minutes.
When you're the captain's son, you can pretty much get away with anything, but on Monday night it will be a very different Paul Carter who purposefully strides into the visitors' sheds at Remondis Stadium in Cronulla as proud father Steve watches on from the stands.
Seeking an opportunity to play first grade after being stuck behind an all-star back row at the Bulldogs, Carter arrived on the Gold Coast in the pre-season looking for a way to break into an NRL team and Titans coach John Cartwright immediately went to work making it possible.
Partly out of necessity with Matt Srama, Sam Irwin and Beau Falloon all injured at various stages of the pre-season, Cartwright had him training at dummy-half as soon as the World Cup-affected squad assembled in November.
He has been impressive at hooker in each of the Titans' three pre-season hit-outs and now the son of the most capped Panther in history gets the chance to become the latest father-son combination to play in the NRL.
"I remember growing up watching him play," 21-year-old Paul says of his famous father. "I was about nine or 10 and he was still playing.
"I remember going down to Penrith Park and watching him go around and annoying all the players in the sheds after the game.
"I probably would have been six or seven, going around asking all the boys if I could have the snakes out of their lolly bags and I was lucky enough to get a few here and there.
"I don't know if I could have imagined [one day playing NRL] but I've always wanted to be playing football. I've always grown up around that kind of atmosphere and it's always been part of my family and me when I was younger so I always wanted to be a football player."
Up until he arrived on the Gold Coast Carter had always imagined himself as a back-rower and has already drawn comparisons with Titans co-captain Greg Bird for the pugnacious way he rips into his work.
But with back row stocks that boast Bird, Ashley Harrison, David Taylor, Ben Ridge and Mark Minichiello, Carter's Round 1 call-up comes in the unfamiliar position of hooker. Carter will relieve Beau Falloon at some stage – the man himself has no idea when – and when he does expect him to bring plenty of thrust to the Titans attack.
He has been devastating out of dummy-half on the back of quick play-the-balls in trial games against the Warriors and Cowboys and also in the Auckland Nines and although Cartwright admits there are some rough edges to be sanded back, Carter is starting to come to grips with his new-found versatility.
"I'm starting to get used to it now and finding my feet there and really enjoying it," Carter said of his positional switch. "It's great having the forward pack that we've got here t help me out, it's going to be good.
"I just came here with the attitude to put in my best and train hard and try and earn respect off the playing group and the coaching staff and hopefully I've done that. I've been lucky enough to get an opportunity Round 1 so I'm going to try and make the most of it."