By ZAC MILBANK
South Adelaide champion Joel Cross has revealed his father’s passing in 2018 was a ”very, very dark time” in his life which forced him to reassess his glittering SANFL career.
As he approaches his 200th Statewide Super League game against Norwood at Flinders University Stadium on Monday, Cross admitted he was extremely emotional when thinking about his dad, and best mate, Mark upon returning from his personal leave three years ago.
And it has only been in the past 12 months that the well-spoken 34-year-old has felt comfortable enough to share his challenging experience publicly.
”It was a really dark, a very, very dark time for myself and my family,” said Cross, who made his SANFL League debut for South in Round 1 of 2011.
”I was dad’s best mate, we spoke to each other just about every day. He was a huge influence on my football and I think I cried on my way to every single game for the rest of that (2018) season.
”I’ve only just got to the point where I can talk about it openly and try and share to help people through it.”
As a result, Cross used his emotional journey to proactively assist his teammates following the sudden death of former Panther Alex Aurrichio, in a bicycle accident, in June last year.
”We were all pretty broken and were really struggling leading into Round 1 (last year),” said Cross, who won the Magarey Medal in 2012 and 2015.
”But I was able to leverage a lot of what I learned from my father’s passing and help out everyone else, to get through that time.
”I remember we were playing the Eagles in Round 1 and we had Alex’s funeral that week but we were all enthusiastic and able to play for Alex as much as we were all hurting.”
It is an example of the close-knit bond currently prevalent at Noarlunga, which Cross has presided over in his role as captain from 2018 to 2020.
Recruited from Scoresby in suburban Melbourne, the dual Magarey Medallist has a bulging cabinet of individual honours as a dual Shearman Medal winner, four-time West End State representative and eight-time member of The Advertiser SANFL Team of the Year.
But none of it would mean as much to the four-time Knuckey Cup winner as being a part of a drought-breaking South Adelaide premiership team, as the club chases its first flag since 1964.
”It would mean everything – it would be justification for all of the hard work we have done,” said Cross, who will join fellow South greats Jim Deane and Mark Naley as a SANFL Player Life Member.
”It’s been such a long time so it would be the ultimate for us and all of the people involved with the club. You spend 11 years at a club and you realise how much something like that would mean to so many people.”