NOT many players in the Newcastle Rugby League know how to sniff out as try better than Kurri Kurri’s Nathan Ross.
In just eight games last season Ross scored 11 tries for Lakes United, which followed 12 the season before.
Tomorrow the former Burleigh Bears recruit will make his long-awaited competitive debut for the Bulldogs at fullback against Port Stephens at Tomaree Sports Complex.
Ross’s return from a broken fibula is long overdue for the points-starved Kurri.
While the Bulldogs forward pack is the equal of any in the league, their backline has lacked creativity and flair.
After half a season the sixth-placed Bulldogs (150 points) have a worse attacking record than every club bar the cellar-dwelling Central Newcastle (148) and Lakes (98).
With the acquisition of ex-Sydney Rooster Mark Khierallah two weeks ago and now the return of Ross, Kurri’s back line suddenly beams class.
‘‘Our back line is looking pretty good,’’ Ross said.
‘‘I’ve known Killer [Khierallah] for a few years now and I’m really excited to get the chance to play with him.
‘‘He’s a quality player and Ben Jeffries is a good half, so having two genuine halves let’s [captain-coach] George [Ndaira] move back to hooker and we’ll have a solid spine and everything will just roll off that.’’
After leaving the Seagulls last season Ross initially signed with Western Suburbs before leaving without playing a match to train with the Knights NSW Cup squad.
After he was unsuccessful at the Knights Ross joined Kurri, but broke his fibula in a trial against Cessnock.
‘‘It was really heart-breaking as I had a really good off-season,’’ he said.
‘‘I was probably the fittest I’ve been in a long time and I came back to Kurri hoping to have a good season with them.’’
Ross’s fibula healed in seven weeks, but muscles in his calf fused together causing complications.
‘‘I’ve been having intense physio over the past month and most of the fused muscle has been broken up,’’ he said.
While Ross is making a comeback from injury, Sam Wooden’s return to rugby league is over after just one match.
The former NSW Country captain came out of retirement last Sunday for South Newcastle’s 16-10 loss to Macquarie.
Last season the 27-year-old called it quits due to chronic knee problems and following the game the old injuries reappeared.
‘‘He always had an appointment with a specialist and he said the only exercise he should be doing is exercise on a bike,’’ Souths coach Adam Bettridge said.
‘‘People have the understand he’s had eight knee operations and when we signed him we understood this and understood this might happen.
‘‘Unfortunately we only got one season out of him, but he’s been professional in everything he’s done.’’