Bryce Cartwright has expressed his desire to help build a successful culture at the Titans under a new coach having reached an NRL milestone doctors told him should never have been possible.
Cartwright played his 100th top-grade game in the 34-12 loss to the Broncos on Saturday evening, teammate Nathan Peats almost brought to tears in presenting the second-rower his jersey in the pre-game build-up.
Told after seven NRL games that a fractured ankle five years ago should have prevented him from ever running again, Cartwright expressed his pride in reaching 100 games while outlining his intention to play a part in the next phase of the Gold Coast.
Recruited from the Panthers by deposed coach Garth Brennan on a four-year deal that runs through until the end of the 2021 season, Cartwright has made 31 appearances for the Titans over the past two seasons including 17 in this campaign, the equal most of anyone at the club.
His Gold Coast tenure has not been without its difficulties – he was dropped to the Intrust Super Cup midway through last season – but the 24-year-old told NRL.com that he wants to continue to contribute to the change that has already begun.
"The standards have lifted and they need to continue to lift,” Cartwright said.
“We're definitely not where the top teams are at the moment but we're changing the way we train and all the little effort areas, punctuality, all those kind of things. Building a better base for ourselves as a team and as individuals.
"It's sad to see Garth go but I’m excited to see who's going to coach us and look forward to the next step.
"I'd love to stay here. It's a nice place to be, the two kids love it here and the missus loves it here and everyone here is just so nice and down to earth.
"I think the club's going places. We just need to persevere and work hard and I think there's going to be a bright future here.”
Given his disappointing season last year Cartwright and Peats embarked on an intensive off-season at training so he could become a permanent member of the 17 and reach a milestone that was in jeopardy early.
“I've worked really hard for this,” Cartwright said.
“After seven games I broke my ankle pretty badly and I wasn't told until after I came back that the surgeon didn't think I'd ever run again.
"To play 100 games after being told that after seven is something I'm pretty proud of.
“I've had a few ups and downs in my career but not many people get to play 100 games and I pride myself on the work to get there.
"It's pretty scary to be told that but I'm pretty proud of how hard I've worked to prove him wrong.
"It was probably the hardest thing I ever went through."
With the announcement of a new head coach imminent, Titans players have been told to buy in or risk being moved on, something senior coach Craig Hodges insists is the honest way to approach the situation.
"That's the brutality of our industry, they are on notice. There's no point in lying to them that they're not," Hodges said.
"I think it would be incredibly unfair to sugarcoat it now for them, nurse them through the last eight weeks and then somebody in our club tap them on the shoulder in September or October to say that it's all over and they're not needed here anymore.
"It will make it very clear for us for the guys that are keen to be on board and are committed to doing it, and the guys that it's just too hard for and are looking to play in a 16th-placed club.
"We no longer want to be a 16th-placed club. We need to move on from those fellas.
"I know it hasn't come through in the two results that we've had but our training couldn't have been better the last fortnight.
"When that will come through in a result I can't tell you but I do know that backing away and giving them a soft landing or making the world a little bit more comfortable for them isn't going to help us build to where we need to build to."