Knights winger Nathan Ross says his efforts on Saturday afternoon to play through a potentially serious ankle injury showed his desire to do everything he can for his beloved Knights, particularly in the midst of a mid-game injury crisis – and he remains optimistic he won't have to miss any football over it.
Ross originally looked like he would have to go off after his left ankle was bent awkwardly under him in a Kyle Turner tackle in the first half but after attention from the trainer, gingerly rose to his feet and finished the game – though he was clearly troubled by the injury.
Ross's coach Nathan Brown said he would have had no hesitation in pulling the winger from the field had he not lost two other players to concussion and Ross said it was simply his desire to represent Newcastle that kept him out there.
"I guess it's one of those things where it's desire," Ross told NRL.com.
"I just wanted to be there. It shows how bad I want to play for this club. I want to do my part for the team."
He admitted the injury was a factor through the game.
"I felt it restricted me a little bit and as the game went on it got worse and worse and worse but it's just those things that you've got to push through. Luckily I did because we got a few concussions so our interchange was already limited," he said.
"In a team sport it comes down to collective efforts and I just hope that my effort was there.
"'Browny' said to me after the game he actually sent a message out that he wants to pull me but due to the shortage on the bench it's something I had to work through. When you do that you just put it in your head that you've got to be there and keep turning up."
Ross said the ankle needed plenty of compression to get through the game and had "a fair bit" of swelling and bruising – but remained optimistic for a Round 4 start.
"Always optimistic! It would take a fair bit to keep me from playing," he laughed.
The match itself was a tight affair with the Knights missing a number of opportunities in attack – compounded by a couple of critical errors – to lose 24-18 in a game they could have won.
Ross said the team's standards were higher this year and simply competing was not enough.
"We didn't come away with a win but we were competitive [however] being competitive isn't enough for us this year. We had moments to win the game, we did some silly things," he said.
"Last year it was good for us to be competitive but we're not the same team as last year."
Some of those critical errors included fielding a kick-off from the Rabbitohs to start the second half that would have gone dead, turning what would have been a Knights penalty on half way into a drop out from which the Rabbitohs scored – as well as a scrum lost against the feed late in the game.
"That [the kick-off] is more talk. You've got two young players there that obviously it's a communication thing. It's also getting a feel for where you are on the field but the good thing about it is it's an easy fix," Ross said.
The difference for the team becoming more competitive was down to a range of factors such as sharp recruiting with the likes of the experienced Jamie Buhrer, Josh Starling and Ken Sio coming in, as well as the development of some 2016 rookies like the Saifiti brothers and Brock Lamb.
Possibly the biggest difference, according to Ross, is players like Trent Hodkinson, Mitch Barnett and Pete Mata'utia raising their own games to new levels.
"We all learned a lot form last year and being on the back end of some hidings and you can either go one of two ways: you can continue to go on that downhill slant or you can make a collective decision that it's not going to happen anymore," he said.