IN his Twitter profile, next to a photo of a black leopard, Knights NSW Cup fullback Nathan Ross describes himself as an "aerial acrobatic specialist".
Ross refers to the aforementioned big cat as his "inner beast".
His nicknames include "Ross Dog" and "White Lightning".
Clearly, confidence is not an issue for this 25-year-old journeyman.
Despite a series of setbacks that would have stopped mere mortals, Ross has bounced between Sydney, the Gold Coast, France and Newcastle just busting for a chance to play in the NRL.
And in a game crying out for personality players prepared to speak their mind, bare their soul and back themselves, the NRL should be welcoming him with open arms.
Written off by coaches and scouts as too small or not good enough, Ross will get another chance to show his wares to potential employers in the NSW Cup grand final against Penrith at Allianz Stadium on Sunday.
"My confidence is one of my strengths," Ross said. "I feel if I'm not going to back myself, I don't know who will . . . I am confident and I bring a lot of energy to the team, and that's what I try and do, make my confidence rub off on the other players.
"If I believe in something enough and I want to give everything that I've got to give, hopefully I portray that and other people around me want to believe in that, too.
"I've had a few roadblocks where coaches or people thought I was too small or I'm never going to make it, so I've just tried to find whatever avenue I could find to get to that top level."
The game against the Panthers will be his second straight title decider after playing in the Kurri Kurri team beaten by Wests in the Newcastle Rugby League grand final last year.
‘‘I could be playing this at Kurri Sportsground and it doesn’t change the magnitude of the game for me. Grand finals don’t come along that often, and I’m lucky enough to be playing my second one in a row,’’ he said.
‘‘I lost one last year, so I know how much that hurts, and I really want to get the win for myself, my family, my team and for Newcastle as a town, just to show that there is light at the end of the tunnel after the Wayne Bennett era, which didn’t really go that well.’’
Ross split his formative years between Queensland and Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
He played juniors for Coogee Wombats, cracked the Queensland Cup with Tweed Heads as a 19-year-old, then in 2010 was that competition’s top tryscorer playing for Burleigh Bears.
‘‘I came down here because I didn’t think my career was going anywhere, and I wasn’t rated by the Titans people, so I thought it was time to move on and get a job,’’ he said.
‘‘I had a season with Lakes while I worked in the mines, ended up going over and playing professionally in France, came back to Lakes, got an NRL pre-season with the Knights, but Wayne Bennett didn’t rate me so I went and played a trial for Kurri.
‘‘I broke my leg in that game but finished the year off well with them last year and ended up getting called back to the Knights last summer.’’
Ross broke his jaw in the final pre-season trial this year and missed the kick-off, then his attempted comebacks were thwarted by knee, hamstring and quadriceps injuries, keeping him sidelined until the second half of the season.
Since then, ‘‘White Lightning’’ has caught fire.
He has scored 17 tries in 15 games, including four in a 42-18 win over Manly at No.2 Sportsground six weeks ago, to be named in the NSW Cup team of the year.
‘‘It’s a fantastic achievement on the back of only playing 13 regular-season games,’’ he said.
‘‘I’ve got to give a lot of credit for that to [halfback] Michael Dobson because he’s helped my game come a long way with his experience and his patience more than anything.
‘‘It’s a step up in competition from last year, when I was playing in the local league.’’
Supporting his partner, Nikea, and their 10-month-old son, Ziah, Ross supplements his second-tier Knights contract working part-time for Downer Infrastructure and with casual shifts at the Exchange Hotel.
He hopes he has done enough to convince Rick Stone to keep him on the books next season when the NSW Cup coach replaces Bennett in the NRL head coach’s chair.
‘‘It’s going well at the moment, and hopefully I’ve done enough to show the Knights or another NRL club that I’m worth giving a crack at the next level,’’ he said.
‘‘I’ve got a little bit of interest from a couple of rival NRL clubs, but obviously I’d like to stay with Newcastle, seeing as though I have a young family here.’’