30 March 1983 (age 39)
Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 19y 63d
Last game: 32y 160d
Height and weight
Height: 187 cm
Weight: 86 kg
|Club||League||Career span||Games||Goals||Avg||Win %||AKI||AHB||AMK||BV|
AFL: 11,217th player to appear, 274th most games played, 2,696th most goals kickedWestern Bulldogs: 898th player to appear, 19th most games played, 182nd most goals kickedMelbourne: 1,301st player to appear, 404th most games played, 972nd most goals kicked
Daniel Cross may have taken several seasons to establish himself as an AFL player, but once he did so he earned respect from players and coaches alike as one of the most hard-working, courageous, consistent players of his era. In 210 games over 12 seasons at the Western Bulldogs, and a further 39 games over two seasons at Melbourne, Cross gave his clubs sterling service and impressed all and sundry with his professional approach. Dogs' coach Rodney Eade went as far as to say that Cross's preparation for the game was unmatched by anyone he had ever encountered during his time as player and coach.
Taken with pick 56 in the 2000 National Draft, Cross had displayed talent in athletics and basketball as a junior before choosing to concentrate on football. From Albury, he played with the Murray Bushrangers in the under 18s before joining the Dogs. As a mid-range draft pick, Cross was made to bide his time playing with VFL affiliate Werribee in his first season with the Bulldogs, before making his debut with the red, white and blue in round 10, 2002 against Richmond. The Dogs won that game and the following one against Fremantle but Cross's limited opportunities saw him collect only three possessions over those two games and he was dropped back to Werribee.
Cross made sporadic appearances for the Dogs over the next two years but it wasn't until late 2004 that he finally started to cement a permanent place in the team and start to have a real impact on games. Finally comfortable that he belonged in the sport's top echelon, Cross went from strength to strength in 2005, playing every match and only once failing to pick up 20 touches or more. He finished the season with 563 possessions as the Dogs fell just short of a finals berth, with 384 of those delivered to others as handballs (more than any other player in the league), the vast majority with precision.
As the Dogs embarked on an era of sustained excellence, playing finals football in four of the next five seasons under coach Eade, Cross was a lynchpin throughout, showing himself a determined inside player, winning the 'hard ball' at the bottom of packs and dishing it out to better placed team mates, not to mention taking courageous marks in defence as big packs of hefty forwards and defenders fell upon him. The step up to finals football provided no great hurdle for him as he picked up 32 possessions in Dogs' surprise win over Collingwood in 2006 in his first taste of September action.
Cross was a perennial fan favourite with Bulldogs' fans for the next seven years, although he fell out of favour with second-year coach Brendan McCartney in 2013 and was dropped to the VFL soon after playing his 200th match for the club. Cross returned to senior line-up at the tail-end of the season and was a typically solid contributor but at the end of that year McCartney informed him that he would not be part of the Bulldogs' 'youth' policy going forward. Cross accepted this with good grace but felt he still had more to give at AFL level.
Paul Roos, who had taken on the coaching role at Melbourne, agreed, and Cross joined the Demons in 2014. Over the following two seasons Cross demonstrated that he was correct in his self-assessment and in 39 games his courage and reliability was one of the few shining lights for the club in a pair of largely unsuccessful years. Cross was prepare to continue with the Demons in 2016 but the coaching staff - to the surprise of some - called time in Cross's AFL career at the end of 2015.
Cross's football legacy is an enviable one, as he extracted every ounce of ability from himself in a 249-game AFL career that has earnt the highest praise from his peers. Despite ending his playing days at Melbourne, and continuing with that club in a coaching capacity, he will long be fondly remembered by Bulldogs' fans as a favourite 'Son of the West'.
Author - Andrew Gigacz