Past losses fire up Illawarra junior Cross

NSW under 16s coaches Ben Hornby and Dean Young with Jack Cross. 
Picture: ADAM McLEAN

NSW under 16s coaches Ben Hornby and Dean Young with Jack Cross. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

RUGBY LEAGUE

As he prepares to wear his first Blues jumper, rising star Jack Cross admits he can't remember the last time NSW won a State of Origin series.

Like the rest of his NSW under-16 State of Origin teammates, Cross was barely eight years old when Danny Buderus led NSW to a 2-1 series in 2005.

The Illawarra Steelers junior says growing up in an era of unprecedented Maroon domination will fuel the fire as his side looks to upset Queensland in the curtain-raiser to game one at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday.

"I was eight the last time we won so it's a long time ago. I was in year two or three. I'm sure I was happy but I can't remember it," Cross said.

"We're getting there so it'll come eventually and it'll be a great occasion when it happens.

"My whole family ... we're all massive Blues supporters so getting to go up against the Maroons is awesome.

"I've never watched a footy game there [Suncorp] but what you hear about the atmosphere and crowd . . . it's just insane, I can't wait."

Cross is part of NSW head coach Laurie Daley's long-term plan to usher in a future era of NSW dominance and he's turned to Dragons under 20s coaching duo Dean Young and Ben Hornby, who have both experienced the Origin furnace, to instil the Blues values in the emerging crop.

"Hopefully we've played enough footy between us to pass something on," Young said. "I've known Laurie for a long time from when he was assistant coach at the Dragons in 2003 and when he asked me and Benny to coach we were rapt."

Hornby believes combinations formed in what, for most of the squad, is their first Origin camp will bear long-term fruit for the Blues at the top level.

"It's the start of their pathway. That's how Laurie wants it. He wants them to start early and get the same values as the first grade State of Origin," Hornby said.

"These boys are obviously going to be the future so getting them together in camp now will help in four or five years time when they're in the real thing. It's about bonding them together in the younger age groups and instilling those NSW values so when they get to the big boys it's already there."

Hornby has encouraged his troops to utilise the frustration of witnessing Queensland's eight straight series wins as motivation on Wednesday night.

"Hopefully it plays a role. Any motivation you can get for a game of footy is worthwhile," he said.

"These boys, they haven't seen NSW win too much and they're keen to get out there and turn it around."

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