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21 hours ago
Former Melbourne premiership star Ben Cross can move a large step closer towards a NSW Origin debut in front of Blues coach Craig Bellamy on Monday night.
But the Newcastle prop is taking nothing for granted.
The salary cap squeeze forced Cross to leave the Storm at the end of last year.
He returns to Olympic Park for the first time on Monday night playing career-best football as part of a Knights' lineup riding high after downing the pacesetting Gold Coast last weekend.
Cross and close friend Brett White - who were front-row partners in last year's grand final triumph by Melbourne and for NSW Country this year - are both chasing spots in the NSW lineup for Origin I.
The team for the May 21 clash at ANZ Stadium will be named on Tuesday.
"There's absolutely no guarantees," said Cross.
"I've seen a mate go through this before - Ryan Hoffman two years ago.
"He was promised the world he was going to be in the (NSW) team and all that stuff and he was hit with disappointment.
"So I don't want to get my hopes up and be disappointed.
"I'll just be out there having a good game.
"I know it's in front of Craig, he's the coach, but I've just got to do my best for the Knights."
Newcastle coach Brian Smith said Cross had been able to pass on some information about his former side, who won the corresponding fixture 44-0 last year when the Knights were really struggling.
"But we don't tend to drag stuff out of players about their past ... we know what we've got to do," said Smith.
"It's not as though Melbourne have some sort of secret.
"They've been doing the same thing for the last three or four years, it's just that they do it very well."
Newcastle will be without experienced duo Adam MacDougall (hamstring) and Steve Simpson (knee).
Melbourne expect all eight of their current internationals to back up from Friday's Test, although second-rower Michael Crocker is in some doubt with a leg problem.
Cross said the Storm prided themselves on their ability to back up after representative fixtures.
"But if any time is a good time (to play them) it is now," said Cross.
"They might be a bit leg-weary and tired three days after a Test match."