The Ben Ross Special: Bargain basement prices

He arrived at Cronulla four years ago as one of the highest paid players in the NRL but comeback kid Ben Ross is looming as a bargain basement target for rival clubs in 2010.<br><br>Just four months after a serious neck injury suffered in a freak Round 1 accident threatened to end his rugby league career, Ross is back on the training paddock and eyeing a shock return this season after being given the all-clear by doctors.<br><br>But his rapid recovery has also sparked a minor frenzy in the market as clubs clamber to add a player with representative experience to their 2010 playing roster.<br><br>Ross is expected to knock back a number of overseas offers to stay in the NRL next year and is expected to decide in the coming weeks whether to stay at Cronulla or look for a fresh start elsewhere.<br><br>The Sydney Roosters, Wests Tigers, Parramatta and former club Penrith loom as potential homes for the 29-year-old, who played six games for Queensland in 2004-05.<br><br>“We’ve had some interest overseas but we’ve also had a lot of interest from NRL clubs because he is a salary-cap effective buy,” Ross’ manager George Mimis said today.<br><br>“He has hardly played this year so he can come into a roster fairly effectively from a salary cap point of view.<br><br>“A number of clubs are looking at that quite positively and we’re talking to a few of them at the moment.”<br><br>Ross’ time with Cronulla has been plagued by injury and suspension, the giant front-rower having played just 42 games in the almost four seasons he has spent in Sydney’s south.<br><br>His hefty salary has also caused friction in the past with coach Ricky Stuart who believes the limited time Ross has spent on the field hasn’t justified his price tag. But Ross himself is remaining tight-lipped about his future, with Cronulla still in the running to retain his services.<br><br>Asked where he saw himself in 2010, Ross simply said: “Back on the football field… I’m letting my manager look after all of that so I can just worry about trying to get back to playing footy,” he said.<br><br>“I try to stay out of all of everything so that I don’t burn any bridges with anyone.<br><br>“I just want to play football.”<br><br>In the meantime, Ross has almost returned to full training with the Sharks and continues to eye a remarkable return to the NRL this year after rupturing a disc in his neck against Penrith in the season opener.<br><br>He underwent surgery that week but, incredibly, was later cleared to play again by surgeon Richard Parkinson just five weeks later.<br><br>“I’m pretty much back to full training apart from heavy contact,” he said.<br><br>“I’m doing weights, full cardio in the gym and because I’m assistant coach of the Toyota Cup team I’m doing some training with them too in the afternoons and doing a bit of contact there.<br><br>“It’s going along pretty good.<br><br>“I’m actually feeling better than I was before I got injured.”<br><br>Ross said he was still amazed by the fortunate set of events that not only saved him from being confined to a wheelchair but prevented any serious long-term injury.<br><br>“I owe it all to the physio and the rehabilitation stuff he has done with me,” Ross said of his looming return.<br><br>“I suppose when you get told that you’ll never play again it is a bit of a shock but three months later everything is positive, the injury has healed properly and it looks like I’ll be back this year.<br><br>“I’m just taking it day by day now, with each week it is feeling better and we’ll take it from there.”