Cartwright's compelling Origin case grows
He may have bamboozled the Country Origin team with his vast array of attacking skills but City coach Brad Fittler says it was Bryce Cartwright's work in defence that proved he is ready for Origin football.
In a game where genuine New South Wales Origin contenders were thin on the ground Cartwright was the player who left the most indelible impression on the 8,317 people who filled Scully Park in Tamworth for the annual AAMI Country-City clash won 44-30 by City, their first win since 2012.
Those who witnessed Cartwright's unstoppable offloads and clever kicks for tries left raving about the 21-year-old's performance but Fittler was more impressed with his contribution in the area of his game that is seen as something of a weakness.
In the top five of the Telstra Premiership for most missed tackles through nine rounds, Cartwright had to prove that he would not be a liability defensively in the vice-like pressure of an Origin match and Fittler was adamant he rose to the challenge.
"The big thing about Bryce Cartwright was that we had a goal before the game that if he was part of a tackle he had to finish it," Fittler said.
"It had nothing to do with defence. I never said anything all week to Bryce about attack and other than the first [tackle] when Shannon Boyd pretty much ran over the top of him, he never missed another one. His defence was outstanding.
"If he fine-tunes that part of his game he's got to be picked in teams.
"He never missed a tackle and set up about 14 tries. He's very hard to contain, he's a very good player."
Country coach Craig Fitzgibbon was well aware of the potency the Panthers back-rower would bring in attack but said his team were still largely powerless to stop him.
"He's clearly a special talent and things seem to happen around him," said Fitzgibbon, who played 11 Origins for NSW.
"You'd like to think that whether he gets there sooner rather than later I'm not sure but he definitely causes some angst coaching against him I can tell you that.
"They were fearless, they had nothing to lose and 'Freddy' always brings out the best in those sorts of players and he got them to all connect and play well."
Cartwright was a link in the chain for City's first try, put the grubber in for Aaron Gray's second try, put a deft chip kick in that led directly to Nathan Peats's try early in the second half and came up with three judicious offloads that put players such as Gray and Tyrone Peachey into space.
As the fifth-most prolific purveyor of offloads thus far this season what he did was not really a surprise to anyone; it's just next to impossible to stop when he is on song.
"There's got to be a bit of trust sometimes and you've got to back individuals to take him one-on-one instead of coming in because if you come in high he's too hard [to stop]," said Country skipper James Maloney.
"He can lift it over you and he's got really good skills there.
"We should have done better on him there, it was a bit disappointing."
For City captain Chris Lawrence, the week in camp with Cartwright gave him the opportunity to see his full array of skills on show.
"It was good to see some of the skill that he has, particularly in training," Lawrence said.
"We got to see how skilful the guy is. We did some drills in training and he reminds me in some ways of Toddy Payten, just really good with his hands in a big forward's body."