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Bryce is right: Cartwright hungrier than ever as he repays Eels

Eels recruit Bryce Cartwright is adamant he is yet to play his best football – a belief which has made him hungrier than ever.

Handed a lifeline after leaving the Titans to be closer to family in Sydney, Cartwright said positive talks with coach Brad Arthur and plenty of existing friendships at the Eels sealed his move to the blue and gold.

Asked whether he thought his NRL days might be over after a disappointing stint on the Gold Coast finished up, Cartwright admitted he wasn't sure.

"I just came back down here to be with my family and friends," Cartwright told NRL.com.

"I still wanted to play footy, I just didn't know where that was going to be.

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"I'm very lucky and fortunate enough that Parra wanted me and I got that call. I just want to play some good footy here for them."

There was never any question of the hunger disappearing, he stressed.

"No way, I never lost it," he said.

"If anything it's probably grown, the fire in my belly. That's more because I haven't played my best footy yet. Being at a strong club as well, I just wanted to be a part of this team."

The first contact with the club was initiated by the Eels.

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"[Taking a pay cut] didn't really bother me, it wasn't about the money, it was more about being close to my family and friends and in a position where I'm going to play my best footy and I definitely think that's here at Parramatta."

Cartwright was widely praised by teammates for setting standards at training through the pre-season, but suffered a setback when he broke his jaw at training.

He returned in the Knock-On Effect Cup in round four before making his NRL club debut in the round-five loss to the Dragons, playing 53 minutes off the bench and making 38 tackles and 113 metres.

"If you're going to have an injury it was probably the best sort of one to have. I could still lift weights and do running so I didn't lose too much, it was just the contact that I couldn't be a part of.

"I've been training really hard and set myself a good base so it's just about getting those minutes back in and getting the rust out."

While Cartwright was mostly solid, his renowned offloading still caused an issue with possession lost at a key juncture shortly after he entered the fray.

Cartwright said Arthur wanted him to play his natural game but with an eye to where and when to get adventurous.

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"It's just about being measured and doing it at the right time and Brad's happy for me to do all those kinds of things, he just wants me to do the right things first and make sure what I do is measured and at the right time," he said.

"That [lost ball] was my second run, it was one of those ones where it was the wrong place, wrong time. I just needed to bounce back and get into my game and get into the flow of things.

"He's got all those players who can do those kinds of things, offload well, play some second-phase footy but he's all about we need to hold the ball and do it at the right times and not turn over cheap possession. We did that on the weekend and it cost us."

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Cartwright has plenty of former teammates in the side, including fellow Titans recruit Keegan Hipgrave, former Panthers comrades Waqa Blake and Reagan Campbell-Gillard and former junior representative buddies Clint Gutherson and Mitch Moses.

He has slotted in seamlessly, according to prop Junior Paulo.

"Coming from a Penrith junior, it's always been that battle of the west but he's slotted in straight away and the boys love having him round," Paulo said.

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Marata Niukore said Cartwright, who has been named on the bench again for Saturday's trip to Canberra, had "put himself in the position" to succeed in his new surroundings.

"He's been good … he led most of our fitness drills, he made a mark that he was here to work and try and put his hand up for round one," Niukore said.

"You saw on the weekend he was busier than what we expected. That was the game plan for him to play a bit of middle and on the edge. He did well."

 

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