By Terry O’Neill.
Rugby scrum front row activities can ensure many rugby props do not compare with an internet dating Adonis due to cauliflower ears and noses not centred. But one rugby prop who doesn’t fill these bills bolsters the front row for Ulster, that former local broth of a boy, Bronson Ross.
There’re those with perception who recall the former Irish Bar now known affectionately as Fat Sally’s. The original proprietors were Eugenia and Rob Ross. Eugenia is one of the McGeown clan headed by Anne and the late Jimmy who migrated to New Zealand from Belfast, Ireland, to settle in Oamaru where Bronson was born in 1985.
Bronson left St Kevin’s College and eventually made his way to Dunedin and played for the Dunedin Club, and aged 22 embarked on his OE to Europe. After two years with the Scottish Boroughmuir club, he represented the Spanish Guernica club, and joined the English Coventry club at the start of the 2012/13 season. Bronson’s form came to the notice of Ulster coach Mark Anscombe who attracted him to join the Irish club which included eminent players like Jared Payne, Ruan Peinaar and Franica van der Merwe in its ranks. He made his debut against the French club, Toulon, in January last year, and has currently played 26 games for them. Bronson, now 30, plays tight or loosehead, and is 1.83 metres and weighs 118 kilograms.
But Bronson’s rugby aspirations deviated slightly when online he met Belfast girl, Leanne Reilly. In March last year Bronson and Leanne, on a romantic getaway, stopped at Dundrum castle at Bronson’s insistence. At the top of the tower Bronson got down on one knee. Just tying up his shoelaces, thought Leanne! After their wedding the pair discovered an earlier family connection – their respective grandfathers, Jimmy McGeown and Bobby Reilly, both played for the local hurling club, Davitts GAA in Belfast.
Bronson relishes the opportunity to play top level rugby. “I have always wanted to play at this level and I’m delighted to be part of the best rugby operation in Europe. And my mother is from Belfast, so it’s almost like playing for my second home.”
His first start for Ulster against the much vaunted French club, Toulon was significant.
“They don’t come any more difficult than against Toulon. When you’re doing the hard yards in the pre-season and you are working your way up, they are the games you dream of playing in. The lads are great, there’s a good vibe, good banter, great facilities, a great place to improve my rugby . . . to earn those starts and to climb the pecking order by right rather than opportunism.”
Props are often known for their longevity, uncompromising attitude to their code.
So Bronson, when Ulster has lost its attraction, there could be a place in the North Otago front row!