Reason behind Woods' Roos elevation
Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga had no hesitations naming Aaron Woods as skipper of the Prime Minister's XIII side after the Wests Tigers prop answered a personal challenge of his during last year's Four Nations tour.
In a side littered with future Immortals and Kangaroos legends, Meninga asked the then 25-year-old to take his game to new heights on the UK tour, something Woods did with aplomb as he averaged more than 150 metres per game as Australia romped to a comfortable tournament victory.
It's been a difficult year for Woods on and off the field with the Tigers finishing the regular season in 14th spot on the ladder after they had to deal with contract dramas, injuries and the loss of their coach after just three rounds.
Despite the distractions, the Bulldogs-bound front-rower averaged 162.7 metres and 28.1 tackles per game and dished out 45 offloads in his final season in black and gold, but it was his actions on last year's tour that really impressed Meninga.
"Even last year his leadership qualities on the Four Nations were excellent," Meninga said of the Tigers captain who will lead the PM's XIII against Papua New Guinea on September 23.
"I asked him to step up from a leadership point of view and he did that really well. I thought he was one of the better forwards in the Four Nations.
"He's had a really good year this year considering where the Tigers finished and all the ups and downs they had and some of the decisions he had to make from a personal point of view. I thought he handled that really well and that's why he's the captain of this footy team."
Woods has had to deal with plenty in 2017 with the big man forced to handle the backlash from Tigers fans after it was revealed he would be joining the Bulldogs on a four-year deal.
There was no escaping the pressure but at no stage did he want to give up the captaincy with Woods keen to help out new coach Ivan Cleary as he worked his way through the club's rebuild.
It hasn't been an easy two-year stint for Woods who was thrust into the captaincy role in 2016 in place of Robbie Farah who played out the season but linked up with the Rabbitohs after his relationship with then coach Jason Taylor became untenable.
Instead of being overwhelmed by the added leadership, Woods used the Four Nations tour as an opportunity to learn from the game's finest minds; something he believes has helped him greatly in 2017.
"When Mal told me, I thought he was mucking around because it was just after Mad Monday. When I took the call I thought he was joking a bit. It's a massive honour and a massive achievement and it's something I'll hold close to my heart," Woods said of his appointment.
"It was a tough year but I think the biggest thing was being on the Four Nations last year. We had so many other captains – Greg Inglis, Cameron Smith, Matt Scott, and Johnathan Thurston – so to see the way that they conduct themselves around the group and how they show themselves in front of the players [was an eye-opener].
"There are so many tough times but they get themselves through it so I learnt a lot from them and I tried to take it throughout the year."
Keen to learn as much as possible, Woods admits he probably got on his teammates' nerves by the end of the trip.
"Because we were in England, we had a lot of time together," he said.
"You sort of watch them, you follow them, and I'm a massive rugby league supporter, so to see the legends of the game - not just the captains but other players as well - you pick their brain.
"You go to coffee a fair bit and I asked them a lot of questions so they were probably thinking 'why are we talking about footy so much?' but I think for me, David Klemmer and Jake Trbojevic, we all love our footy so much so we always used to just pick everyone's brain."