CONFIDENT: Nathan RossKNIGHTS speedsterNathan Ross has dared the Sydney Roosters to kick to his wing on Friday night and has no fears about countering his high-flying opposite number, Shaun Kenny-Dowall.
HIGH FLYER: Shaun Kenny-Dowall
Kenny-Dowall has a 13-centimetre height advantage over Ross (1.94 metres versus 1.81 metres) and the Roosters are expected to try to exploit that in the round-seven clash at McDonald Jones Stadium.
The Kiwi international has scored 120 tries in his 221-game NRL career, many of them from AFL-style marks after cross-field kicks.
But the ever-confident Ross was looking forward to the challenge and said he would welcome an aerial bombardment.
“He’d have a few inches on me, but it doesn’t mean he can jump higher than me,’’ Ross told the Newcastle Herald.
“It’s a common misconception in sport that taller people can jump higher.
“Really, it’s about how explosive you are and I do a lot of training to work on that area of my game.”
Asked if he expected Roosters playmakers Mitchell Pearce and Luke Keary would target his wing with high balls, Ross replied: “I hope they do.
“I’ve proven I’m quite comfortable in the air, and if they want to roll the dice by kicking to our side of the field, then I’ll be receiving the ball.
“Then they’ll have to try and contain Pete Mata’utia, Sione Mata’uita and potentially myself coming off the back of that.’’
Ross acknowledged that the Roosters’ right edge of Blake Ferguson and Kenny-Dowall were “two very good players” who would be difficult to contain. But he predicted the Knights would give as good as they get.
“It’s a good match-up for Pete Mata’utia and myself,’’ Ross said.
“I think we can match them for speed, and Pete is an extremely good defensive centre.
“Hopefully we can get a bit of ball and have a few cracks at them.’’
Ross, who is equal third on the NRL’s tryscoring list with five from five games, said Kenny-Dowall could expect to be tested out when Newcastle had good field position.
“We won’t be scared to kick to his wing to give me a crack, that’s for a sure,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, Bulldogs skipper James Graham has admitted he is no sure thing to stay at Belmore next season as speculation mounts that Newcastle will try to sign him.The 31-year-old is under contract to Canterbury next season but said onFox Sports’ NRL 360program he would not be surprised if the club targeted Wests Tigers captain Aaron Woods.
“Why wouldn’t the club go after him?” Graham said.
“That might mean that I might have to move on, whether that means this year or the year after, I’m not dumb enough or naive to think that might not happen.”
The Knights have made a reported $900,000-a-season offer for Cronulla’s Jack Bird, but if that falls through Graham might well be their next priority.
The ball-playing prop is good friends with Knights chief executive Matt Gidley, with whom he played at Super League club St Helens.
Newcastle are obviously interested in recruiting a forward leader after expressing interest inMatt Scott, who re-signed with North Queensland.