No bitterness as Carty returns to Penrith
TITANS coach Garth Brennan says star recruit Bryce Cartwright left the Panthers on good terms and should not be targeted when he returns to Penrith for the first time this weekend.
Cartwright will make his first appearance at Panthers Stadium on Sunday since being released by Penrith supremo Phil Gould, with four years to run on his contract, to relaunch his career on the Gold Coast.
Cartwright, 23, played 68 NRL matches for the Panthers and was on his way to becoming a NSW Origin forward before a wretched 2017 season, prompting him to seek a release and link up with former Penrith lower grades coach Brennan.
The Cartwright name is synonymous with the Panthers.
Bryce's late grandfather Merv was a club founder while uncle John, the Titans' foundation coach, and father David are former Panthers first graders.
Cartwright could be sledged by Panthers fans and players when he runs out in rival colours but Brennan said that would not be warranted.
"The people who know what really went down there know that Bryce needed to move away for his wellbeing more so than anything else," Brennan said.
"He needed a fresh start to play the best football.
"Bryce is not too concerned about what people think of him. He is more concerned about his family and those sorts of things.
"The people close to him know why he left and know it was for the right reasons.
"His mates back there know that as well. They care about him and want to see him happy and playing good footy. If that's for the Titans, then I'm sure they will be supportive of that.
"I think he did (leave on good terms)."
Cartwright had an improved performance in last Sunday's victory against Manly after playing just one minute in the Gold Coast's shock win over Brisbane.
He made a 55-minute appearance off the bench, setting up points and producing a try-saving tackle on Sea Eagles centre Brian Kelly.
Despite captain Ryan James' one-match suspension, Cartwright will remain on the bench and Brennan said his star signing was steadily improving after a poor start to the season.
"Ideally that's how I would have liked to have brought him into the squad at the start of the year," he said.
"With suspensions and injuries, I wasn't able to. I had to force him a little earlier than he was
"He is a work in progress. Hopefully he takes another step forward. He is excited, as are all of us who have been at Penrith before.
"Penrith is something that's very close to Bryce. Cartwright and Penrith go hand-in-hand, although Cartwright and Titans have got a bit of history as well.
"He is really excited about going back and playing some good footy."
Backrower Will Matthews has recovered from an infected leg and will return to the Titans team while emerging prop Max King will replace James in the front-row.
Brennan said the third-placed Panthers would be the Gold Coast's toughest assignment in the opening six rounds of the season.
"This is without a doubt our biggest challenge so far this year," he said.
"The Panthers are a genuine premiership contender this year, there is no doubt about that.
"They are a quality team and have been building that team for a long time.
"They are the real deal. It's a great challenge and good chance for us to see where we're really at."