Gold Coast coach Garth Brennan hopes a return to the bench will spark something in recruit Bryce Cartwright, admitting that some brutal criticism thrown his way was on the mark.
The Penrith junior has struggled in the No.6 for the past fortnight and will slot back into a more familiar bench forward role after Brennan rang the changes ahead of a date with Melbourne this Saturday.
Retired star Michael Ennis on Monday accused Cartwright of “taking the piss” and playing nowhere near NRL standard at his new club.
Brennan admitted his decision to switch the struggling 23-year-old to the halves probably didn’t help his search for form.
But he also said Ennis made some good points and it was time for the 23-year-old to respond against the defending champions without the burden of extra playmaking responsibilities.
“I don’t think it’s unfair; I’ve got a lot of respect for Michael Ennis, he’s a great judge of the game and players and I don’t think he’s too far wrong,” Brennan said.
Cartwright missed seven tackles in the weekend’s loss to Canberra in a lacklustre performance that drew a stinging critique from Ennis.
“Cartwright, boy oh boy is he struggling,” Ennis told Fox Sports’ Big League Wrap.
“He’s (Brennan) given him a lifeline and he’s taking the piss up there, Bryce. No two ways about it.
“He needs to show that he wants to be an NRL player, he’s nowhere near NRL standard.”
Brennan agreed, although he took some responsibility himself.
“Bryce needs to step up and he’s probably under-performed, but I haven’t helped him by playing him out of position,” Brennan said.
“He was doing that for the team, more so than his own personal goals.
“He’s got to wear that (criticism) and learn from that.”
Teenager Alexander Brimson will make his NRL debut alongside Ashley Taylor in the halves, with dropped five-eighth Kane Elgey’s Queensland Cup banishment to continue and out-of-sorts centre Konrad Hurrell also dropped.
Brimson has excelled at fullback and five-eighth for Tweed Heads this season, but Brennan said he had to try Cartwright in the No.6 first before blooding the 19-year-old.
Elgey, who also plays for Tweed, was among the best on ground in his only appearance since being dropped but Brennan wants to see more before handing the off-contract playmaker a recall.
“It’s not ideal; it’s our third halves combination this year but it’s about trialling and seeing what the best formula is,” he said.
“I’ve held him (Brimson) back, but I just think it’s time for him to have a crack and see what he can do.
“When I asked him if he thought he was ready he said ‘what took you so long’.”