JOURNEYMAN Nathan Ross will call Newcastle home for at least the next two years after the livewire fullback agreed to terms on Monday on a new second-tier contract with the Knights.
The energetic 25-year-old expects to finalise the paperwork later this week but is so keen to make a good impression with coach Rick Stone, he has already started his own pre-season training just a fortnight after playing in Newcastle's NSW Cup grand final loss to Penrith.
Ross, who said he had seriously considered an offer to join NRL rivals Canterbury, was named fullback in the NSW Cup team of the year after recovering from a series of early-season injuries this year to score 17 tries in 16 games for the Stone-coached Knights.
"It should all be finalised in the next 48 hours but I'll be signing here for two more years and I'm really excited about it," Ross said on Monday.
"I think it's a little bit of a reward for how I played last season, and with Rick being the coach, he's coached me in NSW Cup and he's seen what I'm like on the training paddock and what I bring to the team and the team environment.
"Hopefully I can bring that to the next level and get a game or two and show that I deserve to be there amongst the big boys.
"Training starts on the third of November but I already started my 'pre' pre-season training as of yesterday - just a little bit of cardio, light weights and a lot of mobility stuff.
"I'll be working over the next three weeks on speed and agility and balance, so when I get into the pre-season my body will be feeling good and I'll be ready to go.
"If you go into pre-seasons underdone, I did one like that a couple of years ago and it's a very hard first couple of weeks, so it's important to put a little bit of effort into it now to be ready."
Darius Boyd has been Newcastle's first-choice custodian for the past three seasons but he missed the last seven games this year while undergoing treatment for depression, and the Knights anticipate losing him to the Broncos.
Captain Kurt Gidley, voted Players' Player of the Year at the club's presentation last Thursday, finished the season wearing the No.1 jersey and is expected to start there next year but Ross, Sione Mata'utia and Jake Mamo will provide depth in that position.
Ross played in Sydney, France, Queensland and for Newcastle Rugby League clubs Kurri Kurri and Lakes United before joining the Knights on a one-year second-tier contract last summer.
He said the new deal with the Knights would provide some security for himself, partner Nikea and their 10-month-old son Ziah, and allow him to continue his education.
"It's a massive weight off my shoulders getting this sorted," he said.
"It's going to allow me to continue my studies in work health and safety so that I'll have a career after football. The club's supported me a lot by helping me get a work health and safety start with Downer Infrastructure at Hexham, so this is a step in the right direction.
"They're bringing me in as a senior player, being 25, and helping me get ready for life after football and I appreciate that just as much as I appreciate getting a new contract.
"There was a bit of interest from the Canterbury Bulldogs and I thought I might be heading there but the Knights decided they wanted me to stay and I'm glad, because I've got family here and I didn't really want to move and it's an exciting time to be part of the Knights."
Stone said Ross had earned his new contract through hard work and enthusiasm.
"I think he made a couple of sacrifices, particularly work-wise, to come and play NSW Cup with us this year," Stone said.
"For him to give himself a chance to be able to train full-time in the summer and be able to learn a little bit more about his own game, get a bit stronger, fitter and hopefully even faster, I think there's some improvement in him.
"He hasn't really had a real crack at it before, and as one of the leading tackle-breakers and leading tryscorers in the NSW Cup, and being in the NSW Cup team of the year, he probably deserves his chance," Stone said.