How late bloomer Cross made up for lost time

Ben Cross had to make up for lost time.

A late bloomer, it wasn’t until the age of 24 that the big man finally got his crack at the NRL.

It was a long time coming and a moment he wondered if he’d ever see.

But here he was in 2003, pulling on the lime green of Canberra.

“I had to make up for lost time,” Cross told the Our Town Our Team podcast.

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“I was a late developer and I made sure I was training harder than anyone else in my position, as I knew that would lay me in good stead.

“I was training with guys who were 18, 19, 20-year-old and I was already three or four years older, and I hadn’t had any junior development with any club before, I had to learn quick and believed that no one was going to out-train me.”

So, how did Cross come to get his start?

A motivated youngster, an opportunity from a former coach to attend an old school open trial paved the way for Cross.

But even though he was in the system, the forward had to bide his time.

“I went to an open trial with the Canberra Raiders, myself and a couple of others got picked up to go into the training squad of the old Canberra Raiders Premier League,” Cross said.

“(I) progressed to reserve grade, through to NSW Cup and onto first grade in the space of about four months but didn’t make my debut until I was 24.”

“I always had a plan and an ambition to get there (to the NRL)”

It was this ambition that drove Cross to realise his dream.

It was this strong work ethos that would lay the platform for his long-term career.

“I was still working part time as a scaffolder, even when I had signed a three-year deal at the back end of the 2003 season,” he said.

“The week leading up to my debut I did a day’s work as a scaffolder, it was a very good grounding and makes you really appreciate what you got.”

While he would go on to claim a premiership in 2007 and represent New South Wales in 2008, his first-grade career got off to a rocky start.

In fact, he was thrusted into the spotlight in only his first appearance.

“I had carry-over points from a NSW Cup game, and at that time they were cracking down on unnecessary contact with the head,” he explained.

“I sort of put my forearm across Mark Riddell’s forehead as I got up of the tackle, that was warranted enough to get a suspension for a week.

“The debut itself was awesome, it was a Sunday afternoon, Channel 9 game at Jubilee Oval against the Dragons and I was starting. The day I debuted, Jason Croker was playing his 250th game and we won by a field goal, so it was a great day overall.”

Cross made 24 appearances for the Raiders over three seasons before two-years at the Storm and three at the Knights.  

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