High stakes set for season finisher

As far as Nathan Ross is concerned, the Newcastle Knights are treating their Round 26 match against the Penrith Panthers on Saturday like a grand final.   

While the side hasn’t managed to finish the season in the top eight, the Knights have not given up on ensuring they secure the best possible result before the curtain closes on 2015.

“We are treating it as a grand final,” Ross said after training on Wednesday. 

“The past couple of weeks have been good and we showed some fight against the Bulldogs and will show more fight this weekend against the Panthers to hopefully come away with the win.

“We are going to be doing our best to send Kurt (Gidley) and everyone else who’s leaving the Club on a high note.

“Everyone has a lot of pride in the jersey and everyone is fighting.

“That’s what we’re going to do, we are going to fight and get the win."

While the Knights plan to channel all their energy into their final game, Ross expects the same level of intensity from the Panthers who also rest on the lower rungs of the premiership ladder. 

“They are a good team and are coached well,” he added.

“They are a strong outfit, one through to 17.

“I don’t know whether Jamie Soward will be playing or not, but we’ll be preparing as if he is."

Looking back on Saturday’s narrow 20-18 defeat by the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, Ross believes the team showed plenty of promise and strive to take their effort a step further against this weekend’s opponent.

“There was a lot of emotion there and unfortunately we don’t get the win that weekend,” he said.

“The Bulldogs are a really good team and we put in a good effort,” he said.

“To lose by two points, I guess is heartbreaking in a way as we had our opportunity to win that game.

“But it hasn’t stopped the momentum.

“As we’ve seen today, everyone still has a lot of energy and everyone wants to be playing."

The lively winger commenced the year in NSW Cup before being promoted to make his NRL debut in Round 21, fulfilling the 26-year-old’s life long dream.

Since then, he’s made every effort to appreciate and enjoy every moment playing first grade. 

“You never know when it’s going to be your last game. I probably know that more than anyone because I didn’t know if I was going to get a game or not,” he said.

“Everyday I am cherishing every single moment I have out there on the training paddock and every second I have on the field.

“It’s an unbelievable experience…I still haven’t come down.

“After the weekend I’ll be able to sit down a couple of days after and actually reflect on what a ride it has been and hopefully the ride continues.”

Meanwhile, a number of Knights, including Ross, will be eligible to return to NSW Cup if the side progresses past Saturday’s semi final match against the Manly Sea Eagles at Belmore Sports Ground on Saturday.

“There will be about five of us going back (to NSW Cup),” he said.

“Hopefully the Cup boys do a number on Manly this weekend and there will be a few of to come back and at least one team from Newcastle will be pushing through into the finals.”