The half truth Panthers fans must buy into for a run to the finals

Jack Aubrey Roar Guru

By Jack Aubrey, Jack Aubrey is a Roar Guru

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    A source of discomfort for Panthers fans at the moment is Bryce Cartwright wearing the 6 jersey instead of gifted youngster Te Maire Martin. ‘Sources’ say he is out of favour, they are making way for Cooper Cronk, a suggestion Phil Gould has rubbished.

    Anthony Griffin is repeatedly questioned on the reason for this choice and whether Martin has a place at the club. Most agree that Cartwright isn’t a five-eighth.

    The uncomfortable truth for Panthers fans is that Cartwright is possibly the best choice at this point in time.

    After a tumultuous start to last season, not unlike the start they have had this year, the Panthers came to a crossroads. Martin was sidelined long-term with injury and Nathan Cleary came into the side for the first time, against Melbourne.

    An insipid display by Jamie Soward on that night would be his last game in first grade, Cartwright partnering Cleary in the halves until their exit from the competition in the second week of the finals.

    After winning five of their first 13 games, the new combination yielded a return of ten wins from their last 15. While this was not solely due to Cartwright and Cleary, how much value do we place on a strong spine in this competition?

    The overall win percentage with the spine of Cartwright, Cleary, Matt Moylan and Peter Wallace is nearly 65 per cent. That must be close to the big three of Melbourne standards.

    Craig Bellamy has a win percentage of 67 per cent with Melbourne and is considered among the best coaches in the competition. The Panthers need to win nine of their last 14 to be any chance of playing finals footy, 65 per cent of their remaining games.

    Martin hasn’t been poor to start the season, but he hasn’t shone in any games where they have needed him to. The game on Saturday was a must-win and Cartwright stood up.

    A lovely short ball for Issah Yeo and kick for Dallin Watene-Zelezniak were plays that any half would be proud of. They were plays that Martin hasn’t made in the clutch moments this season.

    Bryce Cartwright of the Panthers, (centre), celebrates with team mates

    (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

    It is not the first time Cartwright has had a hand in a big comeback. The Panthers trailed Manly by 20 in Round 14 last year. The circumstances weren’t that far removed from last week against the Warriors.

    Cartwright had a kick to Josh Mansour for the try that started the comeback and a short ball for Waqa Blake to score that gave them the go-ahead points.

    He is a confidence player. People say he isn’t a five-eighth, but he has the passing game and a surprising short kicking game. He is a big body who draws defenders and can offload. He complements Cleary in attack, taking pressure off the youngster, who can focus on his own style of play.

    James Maloney is being talked about as the five-eighth for the NSW Blues. He is a big-game player with good all-round skills, and straightens the attack. As the five-eighth of the premiers, he is a good measure of how good Cartwright is at 6.

    Last season Cartwright ranked higher, or equalled Maloney in the categories of try-assists, line-breaks, line-break assists, tackle-breaks, tries and offloads. Maloney had more missed tackles while Cartwright made more errors.

    These may be convoluted stats, as Cartwright spent the year in two positions, but these are the measure of any good player and the effect Cartwright had on the team wasn’t blunted with his change of positions.

    Bryce Cartwright is a talented footballer wherever he plays. He made a difference on Saturday that Martin would not have. The Panthers need him in the starting 13 and at the moment he fits in best at 6.

    It may not sit well with some, and long-term fans can expect to see Martin back, but for now Cartwright has to produce what he did for the Panthers last season if they are a chance of finals football in 2017.

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    The Crowd Says (4)

    • May 19th 2017 @ 9:52am
      andrew said | May 19th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

      I watched Martin closely last week in NSW Cup. He scored one solo try which NRL defences wouldn’t allow, and other than that he was very predictable and ineffective.

      If the Panthers tried to offload him, and Rein; and given they have Wallace and a very promising number 9 in NYC (Egan) they could. Then they start getting close (depending on remaining cap space) to having funds available to offer Cronk something and see if he wants to play again.

      • May 19th 2017 @ 10:39am
        Albo said | May 19th 2017 @ 10:39am | ! Report

        I too watched Martin last week in the NSW Cup, and he had an ordinary game. But it seemed like he had never trained with that side before and was frustrated at lack of runners when he expected them and team co-ordination issues. He is a class player in the making and I think the Panthers are making a big mistake if they are indeed looking to off load him in the hope of enticing Cooper Cronk to try another year with them ! Very short sighted !

    • May 19th 2017 @ 2:49pm
      Albo said | May 19th 2017 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

      Sorry Jack, but how long do we Panthers fans have to put up with a talented ball playing backrower playing out of position who tries too hard with the ball, disjoints the backline flow with poor options, and is then found wanting in defence on a too regular basis through lack of speed and anticipation required for that position. He is a very creative player but is yet to temper his style to ensure some security in his play, even after plenty of criticism for his errors last season. Sure he created two try assists in the second half last week, but he barely broke even on the day after the intercept pass he threw and missed tackles that led to Warriors tries in the first half , leaving his team with a 28-6 halftime hill to climb. Furthermore he is carrying that leg injury still, making him even more vulnerable in defence. At the same time they have TMM a natural 6 of great potential, but still needing plenty of developing, down in the reserves with talk of offloading him to make enough cash to squeeze another year out of Cronk ? None of it makes any sense to me ? All so short sighted. Cartwright should be back in the pack or more probably back on the bench to be used in desperate attacking roles only when the match is in trouble, at least until he gets is defensive limitations ironed out.

    • May 20th 2017 @ 12:22pm
      Paul Tom said | May 20th 2017 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

      I look at Martin & see a great future centre. Having a few organisational skills never hurt in the centres either. A little more bulk may be needed if Martin wanted to play there perhaps? Just look how easily he has run down those who have taken intercepts , when he has been in first grade. I think he is one of the quickest players around & would make Penrith’s backline a very fast one. If worried about defence, Whare misses more tackle than most in the centres! So I can’t see Penrith losing anything there.

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