Cross 'going the distance'

There’s no greater sacrifice to pursuing an NRL dream than putting your family on hold – but that’s what Matt Cross is doing as he tries to make a name for himself in Melbourne.<br><br>Next week, Melbourne back-rower Matt Cross’ son Riley turns seven – only he won’t be there to celebrate it with his young boy. Instead he will be 1,700 kilometres away, training and playing for the Storm while his family continues living on the Gold Coast.<br><br>It was the toughest decision of his career to move away from the Titans and his family to take a better opportunity in Melbourne, but Cross is looking at the bigger picture.<br><br>“Melbourne is one of the best rugby league clubs in the world,” Cross explains.<br><br>“My brother (Knights prop Ben Cross) played there and he told me it was a great club, and they have a really good coaching staff. I talked to my brother and he told me it was the chance to be coached by and play with the worlds’ best. These opportunities don’t come around often so I had to make a big sacrifice and move away from my family.”<br><br>Cross is on a one-year contract with the Storm having been granted a release from his two-year agreement with the Titans last season. <br><br>After three patchy years at the Panthers, the 28-year-old found a new start on the Gold Coast in 2008. However his dream of relocating his family long-term at the Titans turned sour when he failed to crack first grade for all but three games. With representative players ahead of him, and injuries hindering his season, Cross decided to “put the feelers out” for a new opportunity. He was ecstatic to be picked up by the Storm… but then reality set in.<br><br>Wife Jodie holds a good job at the Titans as community program manager, and Cross did not want to uproot the whole family and move down south for just one year. Their children Riley and Lacey (18 months) stay with Jodie while Cross keeps training and working hard to find his next contract.<br><br>“It’s a bit hard being in Melbourne… I travel a lot,” he says. “The club is really good though, like a few weeks ago when we had the bye they let me take a couple of extra days to spend with my family.”<br><br>Cross is representative of the forgotten NRL players who are fighting hard for every game and every dollar. His brother, Newcastle Knight Ben, also started out on small contracts before moving to Melbourne changed his life. Ben now has a premiership ring and a Blues Origin jersey, such was the effect of the coaching staff at the Storm.<br><br>So it was not difficult to convince Cross a year in Melbourne would open up further opportunities.<br><br>“He’s had a fair chance at first grade and he’s been going really well,” older brother Ben says.<br><br>“He’s pretty hungry for it, and he’s under a good coach down there. It makes a difference. He’s getting the ball on the edges a bit and that style of game suits him a lot better, and with all the focus on Greg Inglis it takes the defensive pressure off him.” <br><br>Cross is a man mountain at 193 centimetres and 110 kilograms, but coach Craig Bellamy is using the Batemans Bay junior as a wide-running second-rower. As Ben points out, it is a position that suits Matt, who now has three line breaks and two tries from seven games.<br><br>However Matt does not expect it to be enough to keep him at the Storm.<br><br>“I’ll do my best and I’d love to get a contract somewhere for a couple of years, but I know Melbourne have salary cap restraints. They don’t have much to offer but hopefully I’ll find something,” he says.<br><br>“I’ll always be interested in going overseas but I feel like I still have a lot to offer in the NRL. I reckon I’ve got another three good years in me.<br><br>“I’m back in first grade and it’s that time of year when things need to start happening.<br><br>“It is getting frustrating being away from my family but Jodie is doing a wonderful job.”<br><br>A move back to Sydney looks most likely for Cross, but he is trying not to let the stress of wondering where his next contract will come from affect him on the field.<br><br>Instead, he is focussing on getting Melbourne through the troublesome Origin period.<br><br>“Origin takes a fair bit out of the boys so the guys who aren’t playing need to step up more,” he offers.<br><br>“I’m just going to keep doing my best.”<br>