He’s the quintessential Newcastle toiler who has slowly, but surely, made it to the representative ranks of senior Rugby League. Now, it’s been revealed, fan favourite Nathan Ross is a genuine chance for a State of Origin debut later this month.
Ross, who endured several mental hurdles on his way to an NRL debut at the age of 26, is among the most popular players in Rugby League; his frequent insights into his own battles and preparations, his relentless efforts to help his struggling Knights and his acrobatic talent have all helped create one of the game’s great characters. It’s no surprise, therefore, that the winger’s cult following has long pushed for the chance to see him in a sky blue jersey – but according to VB Blues coach Laurie Daley, that day might not be as far away as many people thought.
“I think he is [a realistic selection chance],” Daley tells Steve Roach on this week’s episode of the Daley News. “He’s a guy that, you know, no one really heard of a couple of [years] ago but he brings plenty of energy to the team.”
Ahead of the final Country v City clash, Ross has been named in the centres for KARI City Origin - a selection process which Daley oversees. While the VB Blues and former VB Country mentor admits Ross wasn’t on his radar prior to his NRL debut in late 2015, he will keep a keen eye on him in Sunday’s encounter ahead of Origin I selection.
“I think he’ll play quite well this week; I think the step up in class will help Nathan Ross,” Daley adds. “I’ve always been an admirer of his.
“If you had’ve said that to me probably two years ago you would’ve been ‘oh I don’t think so.’ What he does for Newcastle and the vibe coming out of Newcastle, he’s a terrific bloke and adds plenty to their team.
“He’s a guy that is capable of playing Origin and we’ll see how he goes (on Sunday).”
The KARI City Origin selection is a first for the ‘Ross Dog,’ as his maiden experience of a senior representative team. The 28-year-old does not take the honour lightly.
“For me personally, it’s the highest individual accolade I’ve had in sport,” Ross says. “It’s a tremendous honour to wear the City jersey.
“The thing that we talk about at Newcastle – Danny Buderus and James McManus have harped on a bit – it’s about leaving the jersey in a better position than what you’ve got it. There’s been some greats wear [the KARI City no.3 jersey] before myself and to have that number retire on my back is going to motivate me to put my best foot forward.
“My old man Mark Ross played for City Twos back in the day so to play in a City-Country game, it means a lot. Being the last game ever, I guess it’s one for the history books.”
No one can question Ross’ dedication – after former coach Wayne Bennett told him he wasn’t good enough for the NRL, the Coogee Randwick Wombats junior worked tirelessly to prove him wrong – and the motivation is certainly there to represent his state and country.
“That’s what I’m hoping for - these are all little stepping stones,” Ross adds. “State of Origin would be a dream of mine.
“Obviously (incumbent VB Blues winger) Blake Ferguson is in the Australian team, Josh Mansour was the other winger and that’s open now (following Mansour’s ruptured ACL late last year). There might be some positions in the back (for the VB Blues), but all I can do is worry about playing good football.
“Hopefully my form will get me to State of Origin.”
While the most recent development will surprise some people, Ross’ form has been impressive in an enthusiastic Knights outfit this season; he earned a VB Blues Team of the Week selection in Round 2 and has been close on several other occasions. His performance in a new team, under a new coach and in the unfamiliar Country v City camp environment will be vital to his Origin selection hopes, as he looks to have a strong game for KARI City Origin on Sunday afternoon.
Secure your seat at the final ever Country-City clash in Mudgee on Sunday, 7 May. Purchase tickets today to witness history as the curtain draws on a great Rugby League tradition.