The journey may have been a long one for Nathan Ross, but every step of it has proved worth it as the 26-year-old prepares to make his first grade debut for the Newcastle Knights on Sunday.
His promotion from NSW Cup to first grade was confirmed by interim coach, Danny Buderus after the team’s training session on Thursday morning.
“I’m over the moon and haven’t been able to wipe the smile off my face,” he said.
“It’s a dream come true and I guess it’s a testament to continuing to back yourself and even though your back is against the wall, just keep trying…and dreams do come true if you chase it."
After overcoming injury during the 2014 pre-season, Ross earned a fulltime contract with the Club and has shown resolve and resilience to remain in the Club’s top 25 players.
“I have been plying my trade in reserve grade for a fair few years up in Burleigh and Tweed in the Queensland Cup and have been down here for the past few years in the NSW Cup and even in the local league for Kurri Kurri,” he said.
“At this late stage of the season I thought it may have slipped me by for another year.
“I always believed in my own ability and I knew that once I got the opportunity, I’d take it with both hands."
The ability to overcome a challenge is a philosophy Ross has always embraced.
“I’ve been told numerous times by numerous coaches that I’m not quite big enough or not quite fast enough, but if you keep chipping away, your dreams will come," he confessed.
“I’m just happy to be a part of the team.”
Known for his passion, enthusiasm and energy, an evanescent Ross aims to bring talk and motivation to the field this Sunday when the Knights play the St George Illawarra Dragons.
“I’ve always had a little bit of chat around me so when everyone’s tired I will use my enthusiasm and chat to get the boys pumping,” he said.
“I think with the enthusiasm that I’m going to bring and the energy that I’m going to bring to the team will hopefully help us to get that win.
“We are going to stay tight, show a lot of energy and hopefully get one over the the Dragons this weekend."
He’s made a name for himself in the NSW Cup for his flashy, entertaining style of football and post try celebrations, and has been encouraged to harness his natural strengths when he runs out at Jubilee Stadium.
“Bedsy (Buderus) just wants me to keep it simple and play football the way I play football, which is high paced, high energy and to lift the morale of the blokes around me,” he said.
When asked about his playing background, “I’ve been everywhere,” Ross declares.
He’s played for the Coogee Wombats, South Sydney Juniors, the Burleigh Bears, Toulouse Olympique in France and Tweed Heads in the Queensland Cup.
Since living in Newcastle, he’s played for Lakes United, Kurri Kurri Bulldogs in the local Newcastle competition before becoming a member of the Knights’ NSW Cup squad.
“I’ve just been chipping away trying to get that opportunity and today is a dream’s come true,” he said.
“I have learned a lot from every place I have been and can say I have taken a lot of things from all types of characters and people I have met in the game all come together for this moment of my debut."
A confident Ross says he won’t feel at all nervous as he approaches the biggest moment of his career.
“I have been mentally preparing for this day for two years now,” he said.
"It’s just been a visualisation process for myself. It’s just been about ticking all the boxes and step by step.
“I’m going to be giving it everything I can for the boys and this town.
"We are going to play with some pride and we are going show the fans we are proud to be Novocastrians and we are proud to be Newcastle Knights.
"Some steps were a lot bigger than others…its all come together in this point in time for a reason.
"I’m ready for this opportunity."