Ricky’s NRL Interviews Pt 25: Ben Cross

Former rugby league player Ben Cross in his NSW Blues jumper

The rugby league interviews never stop as we have a chat with Ben Cross, a former NRL and SL player, now rugby league coach. 

Ben Cross enjoyed stints with the Canberra Raiders, Melbourne Storm, Newcastle Knights, Leeds Rhinos, Wigan Warriors and Widnes Vikings.

Since then, he has forged a successful coaching career and stayed active in the sport.

So sit back, take a sip of that cold one and let us entertain you with our Ben Cross interview. Here are the questions:

1. What are your earliest memories of rugby league?

Watching it as a kid and playing in the backyard with my brother and neighbours in Wagga.

I started playing when I went to high school in Year 7 when I was aged 12.

It was for the under 14’s and we had a ball lost the grand final.

I used to sit and watch old State of Origin games my dad taped and always dreamed of playing in the sky blue jersey one day over and over again.

I love those old games.

2. You made your debut for the Canberra Raiders; run us through the experience of your debut game and were you expecting the call-up?

A Channel 9 game on Sunday afternoon, free to air TV; how much better could it get?!

I started the game for Ryan O’Hara who was out injured and I had been playing really well in NSW cup in my first year at a NRL club.

Just a couple of months before this, I was playing in the local league.

I just remember thinking to myself I can’t believe I’m out here with guys like Trent Barrett, Jason Ryles, Luke Bailey, Mark Gasnier and playing with Ruben Wiki, Simon Woolford etc and holding my own.

Former Newcastle Knights prop Ben Cross

3. Melbourne was your next stop and in 2007, you reached the grand final and won; what was grand final day like?

Grand final day and winning was the best feeling ever after losing the year before.

Being able to get back there just made it more special.

I was in doubt all week with a hamstring injury and in a way it took my mind off the game and gave me something else to focus on all week.

It was a great reward for all the people who had helped me along in my career because it was for them as well.

4. You then spent a few years with the Newcastle Knights but asked for a release in 2010; was the opportunity in England too good to pass up?

Yeah, I was 31 at the time and came into the NRL at 24 and could see I was running out of time.

Leeds made an inquiry so I jumped at the chance to get over to the UK.

I had 3 great years there.

The first, a pretty rough year after leaving Leeds half way through the year as I and a few other players weren’t in the coach’s plans.

Going to Wigan, I broke my arm twice and then missing the Challenge Cup final was a kick in the guts but myself and my family were living in a great little village called Standish.

The move to Widnes was to help a new club coming into Super league.

It was a tough first year but we got better the second year as we recruited better and the players started to handle the step up.

I left with great memories and good friends.

Former rugby league prop Ben Cross playing for Melbourne

5. On your time in England with Leeds, Widnes and Wigan, how did you feel the game differed from the NRL?

The intensity of the game isn’t the same from week to week.

There is a big drop in standard from the top 4-5 to the bottom 3-4 teams.

This is unlike the NRL where every week regardless of where the team is on the table you need to be on your game.

Just the speed of the NRL feels faster.

The physicality of the UK game was very tough and challenging but not in the same consistent way as it is in the NRL.

6. You returned to Australia to then coach back at the Knights and have since become the NSW Women’s coach; was coaching always something you had considered?

I always wanted to get into coaching.

I started while playing at Widnes and I coached an under 16’s and under 18’s team in Wigan for 2 years before returning to Newcastle and hooking up with the Knights NSW cup team for 2 seasons.

I then coached in the local competition in Newcastle with Souths Merewether while coaching the NSW Women’s Origin team.

I was also coaching at Hunter Sports High School and my sons under 8’s team.

I just love coaching and helping people become better people and hopefully better rugby league players.

It’s a career I’ll continue to pursue for a long time.

Former rugby league prop Ben Cross playing for Widnes

7. Away from footy, what else do you do to keep busy?

I’ve got 3 kids and a needy dog so I’m fairly busy all the time with them, along with a fair bit of study so that’s pretty much me sorted all the time.

8. If you could give advice to any budding rugby league players, what would it be?

Do more than what’s required at training.

What you’re doing at training is the bare minimum you should be doing.

If you want to be like everyone else, well, then that’s fine.

But if you want to be an NRL player and take your game to a higher level than the norm. you need to be doing more than the others.

In every aspect; sleep more, train more, mediate more, study more.

The more you put in, the more you’ll get in return. You’re investing in yourself.

NSW Women’s Origin coach Ben Cross

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