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Penrith Panthers interchange player Jed Cartwright.

A broken back, a chronic groin injury and a dislocated shoulder.

All in the space of three years spent at a club where family history is everywhere.

It's safe to say Jed Cartwright has been through hell and back since he returned home to Penrith after forging a junior career on the Gold Coast under father and former Titans coach John Cartwright.

So when he ran on to the field in the second half on Friday night for his NRL debut in Penrith's 24-2 win over the Gold Coast Titans, not only did he receive a wild reception from the small but vocal home crowd, his family opted for the hill to watch the occasion and reflect on a tough journey.  

"Mum (Sue) and Dad have been crying for 24 hours straight," Cartwright said.

"Dad didn't really say too much, just to stay calm and that I probably wouldn't get on until the end.

"He just said to go out and have fun and do my best. It was a lot faster than I imagined, I didn't expect that but it was a great feeling.

"There's a proud family history here at this club and it was good to get that one out of the way.

"It's really special, especially walking through and seeing pictures of dad and hearing stories about Pop (Merv Cartwright) and what he did for the club."

Match Highlights: Panthers v Titans

Jed was 10 when John took on the inaugural Titans job in 2007.

He became a Titans ball boy before being signed with the club as a teenager in 2014, the same year John finished his tenure as head coach. 

Penrith lured Jed back to his grass roots, where he played his junior rugby league for the Warragamba Wombats, ahead of the 2017 season.

Then came the broken back, a transverse process fracture that kept him sidelined for three months.

The 2018 season didn't get much better with the 22-year-old suffering from osteitis pubis, a common groin complaint that affects many young athletes across sporting codes.

Completing the trifecta, he dislocated his shoulder earlier this year and could need surgery at season's end.

"I've had a lot of injuries," Cartwright said. "Over the last couple of years it felt like I was getting real close and then would get knocked back two steps.

"It's been going on like that for a while so it was really good to finally get the opportunity to play.

Penrith Panthers rookie Jed Cartwright.
Penrith Panthers rookie Jed Cartwright. ©Robb Cox/NRL Photos

"Plenty of times where I've wanted to stop playing because I've been over the setbacks. I'm glad I stuck with it."

It's no surprise he said he drew inspiration from John to remain resilient and finally write his name in the history books.

"It's what I always want growing up watching Dad, that's probably where it comes from," Cartwright said.

"There's definitely no family pressure, my family have always made it clear to me that if I don't want to do it that's fine.

"It's more me putting pressure on myself because I always wanted to achieve it."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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