Carney wins over Ross
IT COULD very well be the most unlikely friendship in the NRL.
One is a veteran warhorse who has always radiated stability and is expecting his first child.
The other is six years his junior, flashy and perhaps on his last chance after being dumped by two clubs for a string of highly publicised alcohol-related offences.
But in embracing his second coming as a Cronulla Shark, former Nambour Crusher Ben Ross has found himself welcoming the brilliant but wayward Todd Carney.
While Ross stressed yesterday that the gifted playmaker was not being treated like a protected species, he revealed the two had bonded and he felt a need to look out for him.
It is no surprise the Sharks have strung together five straight wins and are in third place on the ladder, given Carney's imposing form and apparent clean living has helped galvanise and inspire his teammates.
If the club is to end its 31-year premiership drought, it will need the 25-year-old five-eighth to stay in form.
Sharks supporters and league fans in general will be pleased to hear he is associating closely with Ross.
"I enjoy spending a lot of time with him … I do look after Todd a bit," the front-rower said.
"We hang out and things but … Todd's his own guy.
"He's been given his free rein until such time as he mucks up or whatever.
"But it's just been really good. It's a good environment around Cronulla, and as long as every
one's happy, I'm sure we're going to keep winning and playing good football."
In the off-season, Ross told the Daily that Cronulla possessed the personnel to "shake the NRL up".
And with Carney steering the backline with aplomb and skipper Paul Gallen appearing to do the impossible by taking his game to another level this season, former Queensland Origin enforcer Ross is revelling in life back in "the shire".
He remarked what a difference a few years could make, in reference to the serious neck injury he suffered in 2009 during his first stint with the Sharks.
There is now talk of Cronulla being a legitimate premiership threat.
Ross said it was too early for such speculation, but warned the side would only get better.
The wins so far had been "grubby". Wait until the side's offence started to match its formidable defence.
"If we can be there (in the hunt) at the end of the year, then we're going to be pretty excited," he said.
So would the club's long-suffering supporters.