KNIGHTS winger Nathan Ross admits to a subtle change in mindset as he prepares for second season in the NRL.
This time last year, Ross figured he had nothing to lose. He was regarded as a long shot for selection in Newcastle’s top team, and all he could do was train his backside off, keep racking up tries in the NSW Cup and hope for the best.
Twelve months and six first-grade games later, Ross finds himself as the incumbent, desperate not to give an inch after working so hard and waiting so long.
“A lot can happen in 12 months, can’t it,’’ Ross told the Newcastle Herald.
“Last year was a breakthrough season for me and I’m hoping in 2016 I can grow on that. I learnt a lot playing those six games in the NRL.
“You can only experience that by being out there.
“I was lucky enough to play against a few of the top teams – the Bulldogs, Roosters and Melbourne – and now that I know I can match it with them, it’s up to me to build on that. I want to be known as a regular first-grader.
“I don’t want to be someone who comes in and out when people are injured or whatever. I want people to refer to Nathan Ross as someone who’s safe and secure and gives his all for the club.’’
The late bloomer, who was playing for Kurri until as recently as 2013 and was 26 when he scored a try against St George Illawarra on his NRL debut, said he realised there would be “a lot of competition in the outside backs’’ from the likes of Chanel and Pat Mata’utia and Bryce Donovan.
But the club’s decision to upgrade his contract for 2016, with an option for 2017, would suggest he features high in the pecking order.
“It’s good to know I can focus all my energy into rugby league, whereas before I’ve had to divide it between work and football,’’ he said.
“It’s good to be in a full-time environment.
“I feel that I put a good showing in at the end of last year. I’d like to think I’m building on it as a player and a person. I feel under the new coaching staff here, they’re understanding my style of play. I want to put my best foot forward and hang onto my position.’’