Why Aaron Woods took a pay cut to become a Shark
Aaron Woods was swimming laps with his Canterbury teammates on Tuesday morning while his phone was going off in his bag.
He had multiple missed calls from his manager. The on-again, off-again deal with the Cronulla Sharks was back on.
The stand-off between the Sharks, the Bulldogs and Woods' management was over.
Weeks of pretending they all weren't as desperate as each other to turn the deal into a reality ended just a few hours before the point of no return.
So he went to his manager's office to sign the paperwork. Then to the Bulldogs to gather his stuff. Then to Cronulla to begin yet another chapter in his career.
If Aaron Woods wasn't named in Cronulla's team at 4pm on Tuesday, the deal wouldn't have happened – at least not this year.
Woods was in limbo. He didn't know if he was heading to Newcastle for a couple of days with the Bulldogs or packing his bags to fly with the Sharks to New Zealand on Wednesday.
In the end it was Woods, tired of having his future tied to uncertainty, who bit the bullet and agreed to take a pay cut in the best interest of both parties.
"Everyone is always asking you questions - mates, family and friends - so you sort of get over it a bit," Woods said.
"I have really good family and friends around me, you have your bad days but you have your good days as well and they all rode it with me so I can't thank them enough ... I don't want to be chopping and changing anymore."
His departure from Belmore, in combination with Moses Mbye's move to the Wests Tigers, gives the Bulldogs around $1.2 million of breathing space in the salary cap.
The reality is the Bulldogs never wanted to lose Woods. Coach Dean Pay wanted to keep him.
But Canterbury's appetite to free up the salary cap outweighed their desire to hold on to him.
The club knew Woods and Mbye were the only two high-profile players other clubs would want.
Their departure gives Canterbury a chance to build a more balanced roster. They might not be able to lure a superstar to the club, but it does afford the Bulldogs an opportunity to put together a competitive football team a year or two sooner than they anticipated a few months ago.
"I feel for the boys that are there (at Canterbury), we worked really hard in the pre-season," Woods said.
"The boys have been working hard and I still support them no matter what."
Woods' departure also serves Cronulla's purpose, transforming the Sharks from premiership contenders to heavyweights overnight.
It's hard not to feel sorry for Woods.
He left the Wests Tigers, where he was captain of the club and a regular in the NSW and Australian representative teams, in search of stability at the Canterbury Bulldogs.
And in the space of six months they lost their coach, their chairman, the majority of their board and their chief executive.
Last month the players were informed by the club of its dire salary cap situation, which made it almost impossible for them to recruit any players of note for three years.
A few weeks later, just three months into a four-year deal with the Bulldogs, Woods found out in an NRL.com article he had been shopped around to rival clubs.
He'd been through the agony of a drawn-out contract saga 12 months earlier with the Wests Tigers. The last thing he wanted was this dragging on for another six months.
So he did the best thing for himself with an unselfish twist. He left, but for less money - to give himself a better shot at finals football and that stability he longed for. In return he has given the Dogs their best chance of doing the same in the next few years.
And perhaps those representative honours he has lost since joining the Bulldogs will come back and make up for what he has sacrificed financially.