NSW centre Josh Dugan says it is a huge relief to have finalised his playing future before heading from clubland into the NSW team for Origin after signing a massive four-year deal at Cronulla from next season.
While Dugan was at pains to express his gratitude to the club for handing him a lifeline when he was on the scrapheap at Canberra, it was clear the club's determination to sign him as strictly a centre – at a time while he is starring at fullback for the Dragons – caused him plenty of frustration.
In the end, the extra year in the deal and the assurance from Sharks coach Shane Flanagan that he is simply being signed as an 'elite player' rather than as strictly a centre or fullback were the factors that pushed him to a shift to the Shire.
"It has dragged on a bit but I am just happy that it is sorted now and I can worry about doing my job here," Dugan said from Blues camp in Kingscliff on Thursday.
"I was disappointed [to have to leave] but that extra year and the way it panned out, it was too good to pass up.
"I would have loved to have stayed but that's the way it is. It is a business – everyone talks about loyalty but at the end of the day loyalty won't pay the bills when you're 40. I have a family to look after."
Dugan was given no guarantees either way over his playing position at Cronulla next year but had been guaranteed a spot at centre had he stayed. Instead Flanagan told him he was being signed as "a world class player."
"That's all I wanted from the start [from the Dragons]. To be branded as that rather than a certain position.
"I put myself as a fullback because that's what I was playing in, but they were trying to tell me I was a centre. They tagged me as a centre straight away but I said 'look, I'm playing fullback, I feel like I'm a fullback'.
"Flanno's told me 'look, I'm not going to guarantee you anything but we've bought you as an elite player'. I'm happy with that."
Dugan said all the talk about whether he would be getting fullback money or centre money at the Dragons wasn't the point, but he was simply looking to be signed for what he was worth as a rep player who could cover multiple positions.
"I'd rather not talk about [whether it was handled badly]," he said.
"I've got a lot of appreciation for what the Dragons did. They gave me that lifeline and I showed the faith in re-signing for a long term. I wanted to stay on long term but that's not the way it panned out so I have to move on."