It was back in 2011 when Matt Cross, a former Titan, Storm, Manly and Penrith prop gave the game of rugby league away, admitting that he faced a battle with the dreaded bipolar disorder.
Fast forward to April of 2013 and Matt Cross is back. Free from his personal demons and now able to continue his rugby league career, Cross will turn out for the Parramatta Eels feeder side the Wentworthville Magpies, determined to once again make a fist of things and play NRL.
“This is an opportunity,” Cross said.
“I will start in reserve grade and work my way up.”
At one point, things for Cross were so bad, he spent a week at the Northside clinic after attempting to take his own life – but after a long journey to overcome his demons, Cross’ battle is complete and he is back doing what he loves.
It is not the first time Cross made a return to rugby league, turning out for the Narrabeen Sharks in the Manly-Warringah competition last year, before he was ruled out for the season with a knee injury.
The opportunity at Wentworthville has come about for Cross, after Parramatta Eels coach Ricky Stuart was contacted by Cross’s manager about playing for the Eels feeder side.
Stuart, who is always on the lookout for new players, said it was a good move for the club and offered additional depth in the forwards.
“After a bit of bad luck it’s nice for him to be healthy enough to come back and have a run in our lower grades,” Stuart said.
“We are a bit short on depth and I was only too happy to accommodate him.”
Forced to retire due to his health issues, Cross hopes that his story can convince players in a similar position to never give up hope of playing rugby league or any other sport again.
“I have gone along the hard road and come out of it and turned my life around,” he said.
Someone who was behind Cross all the way and still is, is former rugby league player Scott Pethybridge, the coach of the Narrabeen side Scott played for previously.
Pethybridge, who is a former Penrith, Warriors, North Sydney and Northern Eagles back, said he has nothing but admiration for Cross, as he makes his return from his health issues at the Magpies.
“I told him to go hard and with no regrets,” said Pethybridge.
“Crossy has had his issues over the years but he is in a good space now and really fitted in well with us.”
Whilst playing in the NRL will not be an easy task and will require hard work and dedication on Cross’ behalf, Pethybridge believes that that hard work and some luck, can see him make a return to first-grade eventually.
“I told him to be realistic and just try to improve every week – don’t go out there and try to play like Matt Cross who was at the Storm four years ago,” Pethybridge said.
“A bloke like Ricky (Stuart) will sort him out and give him every opportunity.”
The road to a potential first-grade spot will start for Cross this weekend, when he suits up for Wentworthville in their clash v Newtown at Ringrose Park.