Rabbitohs v Roosters, Round 1, 2011

Rejuvenated South Sydney prop Ben Ross has vowed to help injured fellow bookend Scott Geddes work through what will be ‘the toughest year of his career’ after the 30-year-old suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in last week’s 40-29 opening-round loss to the Roosters.

Close friends since Ross first moved to Sydney from Queensland more than a decade ago, the tables took an ironic turn last week with Geddes’ misfortune coinciding with Ross’s long-awaited return to the NRL after two years out with a broken neck.

Having been to hell and back himself, Ross told NRL.com that it was his turn to provide Geddes – who underwent surgery this week – with the support he needs as he comes to terms with another lengthy stint on the sidelines.

“I know what he is going through,” Ross said. “It’s a setback for him and it’s got to be hard for him. He was probably at his best, physically, that he has been for a long time so to have that happen – it’s got to be difficult.

“I’ve sent him a few texts this week but he went into hospital the other day and I know that a few days after the operation you sort of want to be by yourself, lying low.

“I’ll give him a few days to himself then I’ll head down and spend a lot of time with him.”

The Rabbitohs suffered a huge setback in their bid for a top-eight berth when they lost Geddes, Ben Lowe and Sam Burgess to serious injuries last week, with Ross’ return a rare bright point.

However, the 30-year-old front-rower said his side learnt a lot from their slow start in Round 1 and were ready to make amends against an in-form Bulldogs outfit at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.

“It will be tough with those three out but I think the good thing last week is that it showed we can play with a bit of mental toughness, having only one reserve,” he said. “I think that’s something we need in our team. The boys learnt a lot last week and that’s something we should expect week in, week out now.

“You’ve got to realise that it’s a new game this week and put the past behind.

“Langy (coach John Lang) has been very positive this week looking at the things we need to work on. Training has been tough this week but we’re ready for the Bulldogs.”

Ross’s return to the NRL last week completed a fairytale comeback after it appeared his career had come to a premature end. The former Queensland State of Origin prop suffered a severe neck injury in the opening round back in 2009 while playing for Cronulla and had three comeback attempts thwarted upon the advice of doctors.

But after finally being cleared to return last August, he ventured back onto the field in a trial win over Newtown in February before his much-anticipated official debut in the red and green last Friday.

Despite enduring a nightmare two years, Ross said it was worth the wait.

“Every pain and operation I went through – I was just determined to get back on the field,” he said. “I put my wife through a lot as well so I was pretty excited to play again. I was excited to get out there and experience it.

“Last week reminded me of everything that I love about footy. I remember Dave Taylor coming up to me when it was 28-all and saying: ‘This is what football is all about.’ And it was. I loved every minute of it.”

Ross played six games for Queensland back in 2004-05 and hasn’t given up hope of a belated return some time in the future but said it would take a while before he was back to his best. 

“It’s day by day at this stage,” he said. “Even though it didn’t seem like I’d been away for two years when I ran onto the field last week, it went by in a flash and I really noticed a difference in those two years. The skills in the game have improved and the speed has improved. The quality of players – you used to be able to pick out a player in every team and say: ‘They’re not as good as the rest of them.’ But now, the whole 17 are equally good. The game is so much tougher.

“And it’s funny – I figured out very quickly that the trials are only about half the speed of a proper NRL game. It was tough, but it was great as well. I really loved the challenge.

“Hopefully I can play some good footy in the next few weeks, but it will take a while.

“You’d be surprised how a few years off sort of freshens up the body a lot, but at the same time my body now isn’t used to the impact. It’s freshened up so much that the tackles in the NRL, I sort of feel them again now!

“Hopefully that means my body is so fresh that I can continue on for another few years.”

Late NRL news:

- Newcastle captain Kurt Gidley has been ruled out of tomorrow night’s clash with North Queensland due to a recurring back injury he aggravated in last week’s win over Penrith. Shannon McDonnell is his replacement.

- Canberra halfback Matt Orford will make his debut for the club against Brisbane tonight after missing last week’s win over Cronulla with injury. Rookie playmaker Sam Williams returns to Toyota Cup.

- Roosters five-eighth Todd Carney has been cleared to return against Manly on Sunday after missing last week’s win against South Sydney with a groin strain. It will be Carney’s 100th NRL game.