Almost from the moment he burst onto the scene as a 27-year-old in 2015 with a try on debut in the NRL,Nathan Ross has been a Newcastlefan favourite.
Hisunlikely rags to riches story, the acrobatic try-scoring feats and his willingness to interact and spend time with fans has earned him something of a cult-like following.
But it’snot only the club’ssupporterswho are now recognising his contribution to the Knightsboth on and off the field.
In a sign of the respect he has earned from the playing group, the flying wingerhas been chosen in aseven-man leadership group for 2018.
The group includes last season’s co-captains, Jamie Buhrer and Sione Mata’utia, along with Ross, backrower Mitch Barnett and former Sydney Roosters recruitsMitchell Pearce, Aidan Guerra and Shaun Kenny-Dowall.
It was voted on by the playing group andfollowsa number of group and individualsessions withleadership and management guruRay McLean prior to Christmas.
McLean, who also works closely with the Hawthorn AFL club and the n Diamonds netball team,has spent time with Knights players eachpre-season since Nathan Brown took over as coach.
“Ray is the best at what he does and has been a big asset in determining just who are our genuine leaders and generally just bringing the best out of our players,” Brown said.
Asked about Ross being chosen in the group, Brown said:
“Rossy has come a long way and it’s fair to say this isa genuinesign of how highly he is now viewed by his team-mates because they are the ones whovoted for theleaders.
Coach Nathan Brown
“He’s worked really hard on his game and his attitude at training is first class and he has learnt a fair bit along the way about the team environment and how best to be a good influence in that.”
Brown is yet to make a call on just who will captain the side this season with an officialannouncement not expected until the club’s season launch.
Buhrer appearscertain to be retained in a co-role and despite the pressure and scrutiny he has been under over his concussions, Mata’utia will also be strongly considered again.
Pearce, another serious contender, has previously said he is comfortable with a wider leadership role which he now has.
“Leadership is a big reason why I’m here but the club has great guys in those [captaincy] roles,” he said recently.
Respected: Newcastle winger Nathan Ross’ wholehearted efforts for the club on and off the field have been recognised after he was chosen in the Knights leadership group following a vote by his team-mates. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
Recognised: Last season’s captain Jamie Buhrer and Mitch Barnett.
EXPERIENCE: New Knights general Mitchell Pearce at training.