Lay off Bryce Cartwright.
Almost every critic agrees the Gold Coast Titans recruit has been far from his best in 2018, but Jamie Soward says criticism of the former Penrith Panther has gone too far.
"I know people have come out and been pretty harsh on him this week and I agree with 90 percent of it, but it's the last 10 percent that really got my nose out of joint," Soward told the NRL Podcast.
"Knowing the kid so closely, and what he's been through – and then having dealt with issues myself – it's bloody hard to go through what he went through and also manage and NRL career and then a young family on the way."
Cartwright has been demoted to the bench for Saturday's clash with the Melbourne Storm at Suncorp Stadium, following two underwhelming performances in the halves alongside halfback Ash Taylor.
"He's not the only one in that boat up there," Soward said.
"(Titans coach) Garth Brennan has made some changes this week. Koni (Konrad) Hurrell has been dropped. No one has made anything about him. Koni's played for his country (Tonga).
"(Cartwright has) never been comfortable playing six, but he's had to do that because the Titans don't have the depth."
Soward agrees Cartwright needs to improve if he wants to remain in the NRL but has hit back at suggestions the 23-year-old is soft.
"Garth Brennan would be asking for more of an effort," Soward said.
"I understand that yeah he's not the toughest back-rower to ever play the game but he doesn't go out there, not to try.
"Sometimes you have players that do need a little more of a cuddle, that do need to be brought in and nurtured a little bit more, rather than 'Run hard. Oh you're soft. Do this. Do that.'
"If you put on an NRL jersey at any time – that's not soft. That takes courage."
Cartwright has missed 31 tackles in nine matches this season; eight misses came in Gold Coast's latest loss to the Canberra Raiders.
"He probably needs a month in reserve grade, just to get his confidence back," Soward said.
"We always speak about, 'When do you play your best? When I'm confident.' Well what is confidence? It's going back and doing the little things – that got you there – right, and that's what Bryce needs to do."