Nathan Ross has survived the axe … for now.
Knights coach Nathan Brown is ready to give his under-pressurewinger another opportunity against St George Illawarra on Sunday in Wollongong after toying with the idea of dumping him to NSW Cup earlier in the week in favour of the experienced Ken Sio.
Ross says he isaware he wason thin icefollowing the loss to the Sydney Roosters and has vowed to work even harder against the Dragons to re-capture his best form.
“I thought I might have been in a bit of trouble after the Roosters game and I was prepared for it [being dumped],”Ross said.
“If I was dropped, I wouldn’t have been happy about it. But I would have taken it on the chin, gone back to reserve grade and busted my butt to get back up again.
“I had a talk to Browny [coach Nathan Brown] early in the week and Kenny Sio and I were swapping aroundat training a fair bit. That is the good part about our depth now. You need to be consistently good to stay up but you don’t get on a rollercoaster and not expect some ups and downs.
“Hopefully, I can get some goodopportunities against the Dragons and get back to the way I know I can perform.”
Ross admits he is still struggling to come to grips with the team’s new attacking structures and what part he should playin it.
Hispartnership with centre Tautau Moga on the left edge is also taking some time to gel with Moga throwing two no-look passes meant for Ross over the sideline against the Roosters.
There has also been some issues in the air with kicks directed to their edge, something Dragons playmakers Ben Hunt and Gareth Widdop will be looking to exploit at WIN Stadium.
“To be honest, I’ve probably found it a bit more difficult thanI thought to find my role in the team,”Rosssaid.
“There are a lot more boys this year demanding the footy than the past few seasons which is a good thing but it means I need to be more selective about when to go looking for a carry.
“I try and set myself high standards so I just need to put my head down, work harder and have confidence in myself.”
The Dragons have had the wood on Newcastlein previous seasons, having won 18 of their past 24 encounters but the Knights did take a game off them last season.
Backrower Mitch Barnett says the Knights’ ability to contain the Dragons pack will be crucial to the outcome.
“Every game is won or lost in the middle and if we can come out on top against their really strong pack, it will go a long way to us getting away with a win,”he said.
“All their forwards seem to be in-form and have started the season really strongly.
“Guys like [Jack] De Belin, [Tyson] Frizell, [Tariq] Sims and [Paul] Vaughan have been really strong for them and led the way and they are obviously three from three and coming off a really big win.
“It’s going to be a big test for sure but we’ll be up for it.”
After a disrupted start to the season, Barnett says he is still looking for his best form.
“I’m probably a bit off the pace to be honest,”he said.
“I didn’t play that second game [against Canberra] basically because of the concussion and coming back from the shoulder op, it has been a bit slow.
“But I’m fit and hopefully I can just keep flying under the radar until I hit form. Hopefully this weekend, I can pick it up.
“I’m confident if I can just do my job, I’ll continue to get better and find the form that I want. I’m not too far away from it.
“It’s a bit frustrating because I have really high expectations of myself but I’m getting there.”
Barnett said the Dragons can’t come soonenough.
“After last week, we are all really keen to get down there and really rip in and take the Dragons forwards head on,”he said.
“We need to start with plenty of intent but also focus on the little areas of our game that let us down against the Roosters.”
Under pressure: Knights winger Nathan Ross says he is hoping to get back to his best against the Dragons with the axe hanging over him. Picture: Jonathan Carroll