A "few expletives" from Mitch Moses, a blunt assessment from Brad Arthur and even a stray, jaw-breaking boot from Blake Ferguson has one-time Panthers prodigy Bryce Cartwright feeling the love at a Parramatta club he grew up hating.
Cartwright's third outing in blue and gold, albeit against a hapless Broncos outfit, was his best NRL game in years as he bagged a try, helped set up two more and finished with 129 running metres off the Eels bench.
Now 26, Cartwright copped an estimated $350,000 pay cut from his last Titans deal to take up this Parramatta lifeline with no other NRL option in the water.
His off-field travails and underwhelming on-field form of recent seasons has he, teammates and Arthur all pumping the brakes on any flowery Cartwright comeback tales – all parties know he has the potential to deliver far more than just an impressive early-season cameo.
But the back-rower is happy being back home in western Sydney, to the point he can see the lighter side of a badly broken jaw that cost him 10 kilos in a week, eight weeks on the sidelines and a massage.
"I've got a plate in here and they had to pin my jaw back into place so I have the same bite that I did before," Cartwright says of the injury that came just two days before he was set to play his first trial match in February.
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"I was tackling Fergo and his boot kicked out of my arms and just kicked me in the mouth.
"It's funny actually, when it happened I was in hospital and he was calling on me.
"I thought he must've been checking in on me to see if I'm alright.
"He goes 'hey bra, can I have your massage?'
"'...Yeah sweet, thanks mate'."
The tale is somewhat typical of how things are increasingly done at Parramatta.
Captain Clint Gutherson is well-known for his ability to deliver a tongue-lashing wherever needed, while the fact Cartwright has known both he and Moses since their teens ensures his feet won't be leaving the ground anytime soon.
"Mitch and I are really close, I've known him since I was 14, 15 so he's really honest with me," Cartwright says.
"Every time I've done something well, he's told me to forget about and do my job again.
"There's probably a few explicit words in there, so he's always keeping me on track which is good.
"They're always pulling me in [to line], I haven't had that in a while. It's probably something I've needed, I've got everyone doing that.
"Whether it's Brad, Gutho or Mitch, whether they're telling me to shut up or just do my job.
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"Brad's always been honest with me. I've had the skills but there's all those little things that I haven't done in the past whether it's carrying out of our end or making those hard tackles, it's just doing those little things.
"It was nice to have decent game [against Brisbane] but the boys played really well and I've just got to keep it simple like Brad's told me.
"I had a few good moments but I can't get ahead of myself, I've got to keep working for this team."
The Eels of course are a team Cartwright never would've considered an option in previous years.
His last name is arguably the most famous in the history of arch-rivals Penrith.
Grandfather Merv was the driving force behind the Panthers' NSWRL admission more than 50 years ago, uncle John a premiership-winning Test forward (and now an assistant coach with Brisbane), while Bryce was the fifth of the Cartwright clan to represent the club.
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"You grow up hating Parra as a Penrith boy but it's nice to be here now," Cartwright grins.
"[Last November] I was just training with a few people, trying to stay fit and strong if a call came.
"Parra called and to be honest I don't think I would've looked anywhere else after meeting with Brad. It went that well and Parra was the option from there.
"About two years before I had a chat with him, he wanted to see how I was going back then and what was going on.
"So when they called again it was nice that he was still thinking of me and we went pretty quickly from there.
"I think we met and then I signed on a week later. He was really honest about my game and I think I can definitely improve under him."
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