Aiden Tolman would have been "disappointed" if his NRL career finished after being let go by the Bulldogs at the end of 2020.
But having since been signed by the Sharks, the 32-year-old prop is refreshed and ready to extend his playing days.
Tolman, who spent 10 seasons at Canterbury, was "confident that I was going to get something, somewhere" after the Bulldogs opted not to re-sign him and "continued to train and work hard."
Now, after last playing finals in 2016, Tolman has joined a Cronulla team aiming to build on 2020's week-one playoffs exit.
"To be honest, I wasn't really worrying. If I wasn't going to get another contract that was the way it was going to go," Tolman told NRL.com.
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"I'm pretty blessed; I've played in the NRL for 14 years ... Obviously I'd be disappointed but I wouldn't be kicking up a stink or doing anything like that if I didn't get another contract.
"I'm very happy to get one. I think I've still got a lot more to offer the competition. You're ultimately judged on how you play in-season, but if the body holds up and I'm playing some good footy throughout the year then I'd love to keep playing as long as I can."
Tolman bears no resentment towards Canterbury, for whom he played in the 2012 and '14 grand finals, despite their decision to part ways as they enter a new era under coach Trent Barrett.
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"I've obviously got some good friends there. I was there a long time, but that's just professional sport," Tolman said.
"A few of us had been there a number of years that didn't get re-signed, and that's just the way it is. I think the majority of us picked up new clubs, and that's a good thing - they can [also] continue to play.
"I was the same, they didn't re-sign me – so be it. I'm at a new club now, I'm really enjoying it here."
Moving to the Sharks was a natural fit for Tolman given he's been a long-term resident of the Sutherland Shire.
"That transition was easy as well - I haven't had to up and move my family or anything like that," he said.
Coach John Morris has praised Tolman's work ethic and leadership ability; two qualities that will be beneficial for a young squad.
They didn't re-sign me – so be it. I'm at a new club nowSharks recruit Aiden Tolman
"I'm happy to help out wherever I can, whether it's leading or mentoring or whatever it is," Tolman said.
"You're judged by how you train on the field and that's where you earn your respect, so that's what I've been trying to do - train really hard and get that from the players and coaching staff. Once you get that, you can sort of find your way into the team.
"That's just how I approach everything I do in footy. I try and train as hard as I can every day, try to better yourself. That's what I'd like to think I've based my career on, really."
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Tolman played against Morris several times before the former hooker retired in 2014, and he's taken to his coaching style.
"We had mutual friends [back then], you obviously see him around. He was playing down here in the Shire and he lived down here as well," said Tolman, who debuted for Melbourne in 2008.
"You run into a lot of players. Sydney's a small town in rugby league. I wasn't really great mates with him but I've come here and he's been really good. I'm enjoying the transition and he's been great for me.
"Hopefully we can continue to work together."