Josh Dugan says he refused a career-ending, rarely seen knee surgery to see out the final two years of his Cronulla contract and "keep people quiet".
Dugan returned to full training this week after being told his career could be finished by chronic arthritis, the flash point in a tumultuous off-season of contract dramas and questions over his commitment to the Sharks cause.
The 29-year-old former international said he would see out the last two seasons of a lucrative contract understood to be worth more $800,000 per year, a figure which prompted the salary cap-stricken Sharks to shop him around to rivals in late 2019.
Having battled to train on consecutive days for much of the pre-season, Dugan grew despondent and began mentally preparing himself for an early end when surgeons told him a "salvage operation" loomed as the last resort for his inflamed knee.
Dugan was told the fusion operation has never been performed on an athlete in Australia, and with a likely recovery time of at least nine months, it would have made even a return to full fitness in 2021 difficult.
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Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Dugan was adamant his opting for daily physio, cortisone injections and regular cryogenic treatment illustrated his commitment to getting back on the paddock, potentially in time for Cronulla's round-three clash with Newcastle.
"I never actively sought medically retiring," Dugan says.
"It was tossed up and I said if it did come down to it, I've had a good run. It's something you just have to accept being in the league for 12-plus years.
"I thought about it, I was definitely disappointed to hear that this may be the end for me but at the same time I didn't want to fully accept it.
"The first surgeon I saw said that if it was bothering me that much because it was chronic arthritis that was inflaming my knee joint, I may not be able to keep up with the demands of a professional sport anymore.
"He tossed up the idea and the surgery he suggested was a fusing of the joint. Obviously he would have to cut lower down my leg just to keep that movement in the knee joint.
"But that would essentially end my career. That was the last option and that's why I sought the second opinion."
Dugan's return to training proved a sight for sore Sharks eyes this week, with a hoped playing comeback by the end of the month to offset Josh Morris's release to the Roosters after round two.
He refuted suggestions he went against the club's own medical advice in seeking outside opinions on his injury, and had never realistically considered leaving Cronulla despite fielding an offer from French side Catalans and being offered up to NRL rivals for some time.
"In my head I'm contracted and I was always staying," Dugan said.
"I know the club has got the issues with the salary cap, but for me, it was a no-brainer.
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"I've just got married, I'm looking to start a family soon and I'm not looking to move anytime soon, either.
"I've got a contract and I'm going to honour that and do my bit for the team."
Where Dugan stands with his own teammates was also a cause for conjecture across the game.
As well as Cronulla's recent trip to rugby league mad Papua New Guinea, Dugan declared that proving his doubters wrong and playing for his teammates are motivation enough to keep him focused on his recovery.
"When that first came out a few of the other boys jumped on their various social media and backed me up," Dugan said.
"That just goes to show that that was false. Every time I'm in here I'm doing what I can.
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"I still love the game and I love being around the boys … I've always had that [the doubters] in the back of my mind, I have a habit of doing that in the past and that's probably a driving factor as well for me, being able to keep people quiet.
"… I turned up here every day and while I probably wasn't 100 per cent happy with how things were going, I turned up here every day, did my work, did what I had to do.
"Anytime I was around the boys, you can ask them I was as happy as I could be with them. There's a big difference between being disinterested and being disappointed in the outcomes that I've had.
"Seeing me with my head down and things like that was definitely misconstrued about being disappointed [and] not wanting to be here because that was so far from the truth it wasn't funny."