Gold Coast NRL coach Garth Brennan admits there are no guarantees Bryce Cartwright can turn around his defensive woes and finally cement a starting Titans spot in 2019.
But Brennan says the early signs are good that Cartwright has discovered the desire to rectify a nightmare 2018 debut with the Titans when he was slammed for his attitude.
Brennan talked up Cartwright's chances of featuring this year in the Titans' back row after the former Penrith star had stood tall at pre-season training.
However, Brennan said Cartwright still had plenty to prove before he named his team for March's season opener.
"We all know 2018 was very disappointing for Bryce. I am the first to come out and say that," Brennan told Sky Sports Radio.
"But he is the fittest I have ever seen him. He spent the whole break training with Nathan Peats, who is a freak.
"That doesn't guarantee it will transfer onto the field but one thing it does show is he is doing everything he possibly can to get ready for 2019."
Brennan was the first to admit Cartwright's defence in 2018 wasn't good enough.
Cartwright's attitude was summed up by an infamous round-10 incident in which he pulled out of a tackle on Melbourne's try-bound Cameron Munster, an effort slammed as embarrassing by ex-hard man Mark Carroll.
But Brennan was confident Cartwright was on the right track.
"He just needs to get his head right. He needs to be committed to the other side of the game which is defence and I know he is working hard on that," he said.
"You can teach blokes to tackle but they have got to want to do it.
"They say 'D' is for defence - I say it is for desire.
"People questioned his intent and desire (to tackle) at times last year and rightly so.
"But you watch him train now and you can see the desire is there - he's absolutely flying."
Brennan hoped the arrival of off-season recruits Tyrone Peachey, Tyrone Roberts and Ryley Jacks also helped solve his other problem - getting a consistent year out of halfback Ash Taylor.
The young playmaker was tipped for Queensland State of Origin honours last year but battled to steer the Titans around the park before they finished third last.
"He learned some tough lessons last year," Brennan said of Taylor.
"But some quality players around him will be the key and take some pressure off him."