Newcastle Knights: Team man Nathan Ross backflips on celebration

HOT DOG: Nathan Ross is congratulated by teammates after scoring a try in the Knights' drought-breaking 34-26 win over the Gold Coast Titans. Picture: Getty Images
HOT DOG: Nathan Ross is congratulated by teammates after scoring a try in the Knights' drought-breaking 34-26 win over the Gold Coast Titans. Picture: Getty Images

ROSS Dog. Where was the backflip?

Surely, this was the moment. A match-sealing try to end a 19-game losing streak in front of 12,869 success-starved diehards and 17 Knights legends.

Earlier, punters had been greeted with a video clip of Nathan Ross performing a back flip in the players tunnel. The video came with a message that the gates were open at McDonald Jones Stadium.

The GIF, which finished with Ross Dog firing pistols Shooter McGavin style, did the rounds on social media. A sign of things to come?

But when Ross stepped inside Titans lock Leivaha Pulu, split two defenders and planted the ball down, there was no acrobatics. He spun towards his teammates, applauding, bouncing and boasting a smile a taxman couldn’t wipe, before gang tackled into the fence. There he was mobbed by middle-aged men acting like Justin Bieber fans.

“It was a very well-orchestrated team performance and for me to do a back flip might have taken the attention away from the work we did as a team,” Ross explained. “I had an in-depth conversation with Nathan Brown. I do not want to be remembered as a flash in the pan. I will have a bit of flair when I can but it is not just about one player. It is not about me taking the spotlight from someone else. For where we are heading as a team, it is not what we want to be seen as.”

Still, there is no disguising the pure enjoyment Ross derives from playing in the NRL. Presented Nathan Brown’s coach’s award for 2016, the late bloomer broke down in tears. It is that enthusiasm and passion which has endeared the 28-year-old to the fans.

Cult status is something Ross enjoys.

“I do want to be remembered as a cult hero but I also want to be remembered as someone who worked hard for this team and town.”

The rest of the rugby league world is just starting to catch up on the Ross Dog story – a rugby league journeyman who in his desperation to make it to the NRL had pit stops in Coogee, Burleigh, Toulouse, Lakes United and Kurri Kurri. Infectious character. Loveable larrikin. Complex.

He has poured beers, worked in the mines ... all the while refusing to give up on a dream.

The 78th minute four-pointer against the Titans on Saturday completed a brace of tries and took his tally to four in two games, equal with Parramatta road train Semi Radradra.

“I am heading in the right direction,” Ross said. “As long as I am making the team week-in, week-out, doing my job and doing my bit for the greater scheme, I’m happy.”

Happy but far from satisfied.

Nathan Ross' match-sealing try against the Titans

Each day before training and games, Ross writes the number 50 and letters CC on the strapping on his left wrist. The 50 stands for NRL games and CC is City-Country.  Selection for “Round one” had previously been written but has been ticked off.

“They are my next goals. If you don’t have a goal you can wander around aimlessly,” Ross said. “Football can almost become a chore. If I continue to set goals, I feel as if I am accomplishing something and making the people around me proud.”

In February, with 25 NRL games under his belt, Ross aired his ambition for the City No.2 jumper. The public declaration a sidestep from the ‘I’m just concentrating on playing well for my club’ approach of most players.

“It is very easy to have goals and keep them on the inside. Then if you fail nobody knows. For me, if it is not spoken, it is not real. I set two goals in the pre-season I didn’t get. I wanted to play in the centres or start at fullback. I failed at both of them. What I am learning is to fail successfully. You become a better player and person from it.”

After signing a two-year deal last August, Ross’ future is settled. But with a baby sister for his son Ziah due in a matter of weeks and unbridled ambition to become an elite winger, the light-wight flyer is working harder than ever.

“I have more motivation now,” he said. I am training harder and want to play better football so I get an upgrade and extension again. Consistency is the key. Look at people like James McManus and Jason Nighingale, consistent wingers who week-in week-out turn up and don’t make errors, that is the type of player I want to be. One of the biggest things I have worked on is my defence. My attack has always been there but to be a strong defensive winger is what sets people apart. Winger is a funny position. You can be the hero or the villain in one set. I know which I’d prefer.”