Coach to cross line
By MITCHELL DALE
NATIONAL Rugby League veteran John Cross will strap on the boots and have a run for Woolgoolga Sea Horses in the 2005 VB Group 2 competition . . . as long as he gets picked in the starting 13.
Given that Cross is the Seahorses' first grade coach, it's a pretty safe bet to say he will be appearing in the club's new playing strip this year.
Cross, a veteran of over 250 first grade appearances with Illawarra, St George Illawarra and Penrith, originally signed with Woolgoolga as a non-playing coach.
But earlier this month he decided to come out of retirement and help steer the young Sea Horses around the paddock.
"I will play in the back row as long as I get picked in the starting 13," Cross joked yesterday.
"I didn't plan on playing in the beginning, but once I started training with the boys I got keen again.
"I wasn't sure how a captain-coach would go, but since I have been involved with the side, I realise this is the way to go.
"I think it will be beneficial for the team, you can tell the guys things until you're blue in the face, but sometimes you have to get out there and show them what you mean.
"We will have a pretty young side this year, so hopefully I can lead by example."
With the 2005 VB Group 2 season just a punt kick away, Cross believes his Seahorses are coming along well.
"The numbers have been pretty good," he said.
"It is hard for me to get a guide on how we are going because it's my first year, but people who have been involved with the club for a while are happy."
Cross, one of only seven NRL footballers to have played over 100 games for two different clubs (Illawarra and Penrith), hasn't laced on a boot since retiring in 2003.
But he is approaching this season with the eagerness of a rookie.
"I'm looking forward to it, it will be good to get back into shape," he said.
"I haven't played for over 12 months and I am not as quick in the legs as I used to be.
"I might be a bit rusty early and it will probably take a while to get match fitness back.
"(But) hopefully I will be right after a month or so."
Woolgoolga club president Chris Hughes says the inclusion of Cross in the Seahorses' line-up will result in extra bums on seats, especially at home matches.
"It has certainly created excitement," Hughes said.
"Word has spread pretty quickly and it should mean a few more people through the gate, especially if we win a few early matches."
Aside from gate-takings, Cross's influence is sure to be a winner for Woolgoolga in 2005, provided he can convince himself he is good enough for a starting jersey.