Nines a dream come true for new Knight Ross
Chances are you have never heard of Nathan Ross, and why would you have?
The Newcastle Knights aren't lacking in classy, highly-rated rookies – including Jake Mamo, Danny Levi and the Mata'utia brothers – and it has meant Ross has been lost in the shuffle.
It's a shame really because after years of plying his trade in the Intrust Super Cup, NSW Cup and the Newcastle Rugby League competition, 26-year-old Ross has finally been given the opportunity to play for the Knights at this weekend's Auckland Nines.
Admitting he is over the moon to finally get a taste of top flight rugby league, Ross isn't worried he's not widely-known outside of Newcastle rugby league circles – despite earning NSW Cup Fullback of the Year honours in 2014.
"I'm pretty happy that I'm going into the Nines relatively unheard of actually," Ross told NRL.com.
"The people from Newcastle will know who I am coming through the local league and NSW Cup, but even then I only played half the season last year because of injury.
"A 20-odd year old rookie isn't heard of that often so hopefully I can get out there and turn a few heads."
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The fullback's opportunity to represent the club though has come with several sacrifices.
With a young family to support, Ross quit his job in the mines late last year so he could participate in Newcastle's pre-season – his first ever with an NRL squad.
Now with the belief a first-grade debut could be inching closer and closer under new coach Rick Stone, the last few months have been a huge change of pace for Ross considering he almost didn't re-sign with the club for 2015.
"I was all but leaving. I was going to head to either Wyong or Wynnum Manly," he said.
"I was going to leave because I couldn't come to terms because they didn't know what was happening with Darius [Boyd]… I'm happy I guess that he moved on and opened up the door for a few of us to come through.
"Everything has fallen into place. I've been able to dedicate my whole self into doing this. Rick has spoke me to and said my fate is all in my hands. It's up to me to give him no other option but to pick me now.
"I'm not going to leave any stone unturned and we have a coaching staff and playing group here who believe in me so I'm hoping to go that one step further this year."
Ross isn't the only former Newcastle Rugby League player to make his Auckland Nines debut this year, with the Roosters naming Wyong Roos captain and hooker Mitch Williams in their squad.
With the Roos making the jump from the Newcastle league to the NSW Cup in 2013, before becoming the feeder club to the Tricolours this year, Williams is set to make a similar jump up to the Nines as his former Newcastle teammate.
Having seen the likes of Chris Bailey and Josh Mantellato leap from Newcastle's local league to the NRL in the recent seasons, Ross and Williams remain in good company.
"I'm so proud of Mitchy to tell you the truth," Ross said.
"He's just a true battler who has been overlooked a few times in his career. I'm surprised he hasn't played NRL yet. The year before last he was named the best player in the NSW Cup and Wyong came last.
"People have laid the platform before us and Josh [Mantellato] certainly showed us that it's never too late to make your NRL debut.
"The NRL is all about getting the right opportunity at the right place at the right time so when that time does arrive it's just a matter of doing enough so we can stay there.
"I think this year is the right time for me."
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