Newcastle Knights NSW Cup live wire Nathan Ross has been making the most of his time in the NSW Cup representative side since linking up the squad at the beginning of the week.
Ross has been named as 19th man in the talent-packed squad alongside NSW Cup Knight Chanel Mata’utia who’s been named to take his spot in the run on team.
It has been a busy week of preparation ahead of the match against the Queensland residents on Sunday with a portion of the NSW Cup squad including Knights Ross and Mata’utia staying in Parramatta before travelling to Brisbane on Thursday.
The camp schedule began with training sessions at Leichardt Oval where the side held a meet and greet before walking through some plays and the game plan.
“We had a tactical session and the intensity picked up a little bit more with marking our defence. We went through all our good ball sets,” Ross said.
“It’s a good group of guys. Everyone has been really great.”
Ross considers his selection in the squad a proud accomplishment.
“I got a phone call when I was at work that I’d been picked in the 19-man squad,” he said.
“I was shocked. It’s such a massive achievement and it seems as if I’m getting a step closer to my goal every year."
Ross reflects on a time not too long ago when he was playing for Kurri Kurri in the Newcastle local competition when he wasn't sure if he wanted to pursue a career in football anymore.
He’s faced a series of injury setbacks in the last few seasons including a broken leg and a broken jaw that’s challenged his resilience.
“I had basically quit football,” he admitted.
But he fought his way back to establish himself as an explosive fullback in the NSW Cup Knights 2014 grand finalist side which ultimately saw him named in the 2014 NSW Cup Team of the Year.
Though the 2015 season hasn’t been without its obstacles either, with the 27-year-old ruled out of a number of the NSW Cup’s early clashes.
“I missed a couple of games with an ankle injury and a head knock in the first rounds, so to still make the team off the four games that I did play has been outstanding,” he said.
“I’ve been named at 19th man at the moment but I’ve been doing my best to show a positive attitude and train really hard to get into the actual 17 on the weekend."
What Ross has most taken from his time in camp is the experience of training with some of the highest quality players in the reserve grade competition.
“You can tell the caliber of players at training sessions,” he said.
“There’s a lot more talk and less errors.”
Ross also sung the praise of his teammate Chanel Mata'utia who has emerged as one of NSW Cup's most talented outside backs.
“He’s one of the shining lights in the team and I think it’s his attitude towards football and the way he carries himself on the field. He’s just a player that everyone wants to be around and play with,” he said.
Ross expects the representative experience will lift both of their performances when they return to the ranks of the NSW Cup Knights.
“I wouldn’t say we are anywhere near our best yet to perfectly honest," he said about the NSW Cup Knights team.
"We won our Round 8 game 22-10, but I don’t think it was convincing.
“I don’t think the game was ever in doubt, we were never going to lose, but we’re nowhere near the force to be reckoned with that we actually are.
“I still think there are a lot of combinations to grow and combinations to still develop.
“By the time the bell rings for the grand final to start, hopefully we’ll be there and fighting fit.”
NSW Cup Representative Team
1. Nathan Gardner, 2. Mitch Brown, 3. Levi Dodd, 4. Peter Mata'utia, 5. Chanel Mata'utia 6. Darren Nicholls, 7. Mitch Cornish, 8. Sam Anderson, 9. Mitch Williams (c) 10. Danny Fualalo, 11. Will Matthews, 12. Mitch Barnett, 13. Adam Elliott. Interchange: 14. Matt Hyland, 15. Leilani Latu, 16. Mark Nicholls, 17. Nathan Green, 18. Daniel Alvaro, 19. Nathan Ross.