When Jed Cartwright made his long-awaited NRL debut last Friday evening at Panthers Stadium, he incredibly became the sixth member of the famous Cartwright family to do so.
And just like Cliff, David, John, Michael and Bryce before him, Jed was able to live out his rugby league dream wearing a Penrith Panthers jumper.
“I played much of my junior career at the Gold Coast Titans because Dad (John) was coaching there at the time but I always wanted to come back here and make my first grade debut for Penrith, where every family member has,” Cartwright told the Weekender on Monday.
While Cartwright described his debut as “special”, it’s certainly been a long and painful journey to get there. The 22-year-old has endured some terrible injuries and setbacks over the years, which made last Friday night even more momentous.
After suffering a broken back, a groin injury, an ankle injury, dislocated shoulder and even a terrifying asthma attack, Cartwright was close to giving it all away.
“It was a tough period to go through especially getting so close to debuting a few times… it just felt like I would get an injury and it would set me back a couple of months,” Cartwright admitted.
“It was getting really frustrating and emotionally draining and I remember calling Dad a couple of times because I just had enough.
“Thankfully after a few days I got my motivation back but it sort of makes it sweeter now that I’ve finally got there.”
Making the occasion last week even more interesting for the Cartwright clan, the Warragamba Wombats junior got to make his debut up against former Panther turned Titan, Bryce Cartwright.
Cartwright said it was a unique experience playing against his cousin in front of all their family and friends.
“We were meant to be on the same side of the field when I came on but unfortunately the Titans got an injury and Bryce had to shift to the other side,” Cartwright said.
“It would have been good to come up against him but it was really special to have him involved in my first game as well.”
While Cartwright awaits his next opportunity in the top grade, he’ll never forget the week he just had.
“It was a bit of a whirlwind the last few days but it all sunk in last night,” he said.
“I just crashed about 8.30pm, I was so emotionally and physically drained.”
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for nearly a decade.