I wanted out: Ayshford
Warriors recruit Blake Ayshford has revealed how his darkest days at the Cronulla Sharks had him ready to give up on his NRL career this year.
The 27-year-old centre joined the Sharks in 2014 hoping to take his game to another level after five seasons with the Wests Tigers.
But the move quickly turned into a nightmare one as the well-publicised ASADA investigation, coupled with personal struggles with form and injury, eventually caused Ayshford to seriously consider a move to rugby union or the UK Super League.
"Yeah, I wanted out real bad," Ayshford told NRL.com.
"When I was at the Sharks a lot happened with all the ASADA stuff and it sort of put a dampener on my first year.
"Honestly I was contemplating giving up the NRL and either going to union or the Super League. It was a massive thing for me just to get out of Sydney.
"I was copping a lot of stick, I had so much potential - or I thought I did - and I didn't live up to it.
"I had a couple of offers from clubs in the Super League, and to be honest if the Warriors hadn't come up I would probably be over there now.
"It [the ASADA investigation] had to do with my teammates, so even if it wasn't on my mind while I playing it was on their mind.
"So their mind wasn't on the job and then I would be thinking of them. It was like a ripple effect...and to win a comp everyone needs to be focussed."
Now deep into the pre-season with the Warriors Ayshford admits it is a relief to be in a new environment.
With fiancé Maria - who hails from Whakatane, the same small New Zealand town as Benji Marshall - and children Mason, 4, and Marley, 2, settled in Auckland, Ayshford is embracing the chance to resurrect his NRL career.
In an otherwise fairly youthful Warriors backline he has welcomed the move by coach Andrew McFadden to give him some leadership responsibility.
"I have never been a leader in any team, but 'Cappy' said to me that in the backs there are not many older players here, in the forwards there are plenty of leaders, but they just needed someone out on the edge who has been there before," Ayshford adds.
"I think I can bring a lot, and if I am not in the first-grade team I can still help the younger boys.
"The motivation behind moving to the Warriors was probably to get back to the kind of footy I was playing at the Tigers to be honest.
"Everyone thought I still had something to give so that is why I am here. I have enough belief in myself to think I can still handle myself in the NRL."
Meanwhile fellow Warriors recruit Jeff Robson - who played alongside Ayshford at the Sharks over the past two seasons - believes the former Junior Kangaroo is a better player than his recent career statistics suggest.
"'Aysh' is a great player and he obviously only got a few opportunities in first grade last year at the Sharks, but whenever he played he definitely did his job," Robson said.
"He had some pretty good centres ahead of him at the Sharks in Gerard Beale and Ricky Leutele which limited his opportunities. But he has a lot of experience and will be a good fit at the Warriors."