The silver lining to Aaron Woods' tumultuous season

The silver lining to Aaron Woods' tumultuous season

Aaron Woods doesn't blink when asked about his last NRL finals appearance.

"It was 2011. It was a shit loss,'' Woods says. "All we had to do was put a hand on Krisnan Inu and we win.''

Woods and the Wests Tigers were in cruise control against the Warriors in a semi-final when the Warriors rallied late and Inu scored the match-winner in the 78th minute.

Woods was heartbroken. He hasn't featured in September since.

Shire thing: Aaron Woods during his first training session with the Sharks.

Shire thing: Aaron Woods during his first training session with the Sharks.Credit:AAP


"It sucked when I was at the Tigers in September because we were always watching,'' he says. "A lot of times we had beaten the good sides; we just couldn't beat the lower sides. It was always hard knowing the sides we had beaten were in the eight and we weren't.''

Woods, however, is about to break his finals drought. He's only two weeks away from finals action with new employer Cronulla.

There are so many feel-good stories leading into September.

First-year coach Anthony Seibold at the helm of South Sydney.

Cooper Cronk proving he can succeed at the Roosters without his mate Billy Slater and former pal Cam Smith.

Even Smith himself inspiring yet another unlikely Storm campaign at 35 years of age.

In the doghouse: Aaron Woods was forced out of Canterbury.

In the doghouse: Aaron Woods was forced out of Canterbury.Credit:AAP

But Woods will be the feel-good story for the Sharks.

This is the same bloke who lost his NSW jersey. Then went through the humiliation of getting shuffled out the door at Canterbury barely six months into a whopping $3 million, four-year deal.

Woods has quickly slotted into life at Cronulla. He is unlikely to ever cross the Captain Cook Bridge and live there, but he is playing an increasingly important role in a Sharks side rated the competition smokeys.

They will do their chances no harm of a top-four finish with a big win over Newcastle at home on Sunday afternoon.

Out of the Blue: Aaron Woods lost his NSW jumper this year.

Out of the Blue: Aaron Woods lost his NSW jumper this year.Credit:Jonathan Carroll

Woods' deal to move from Canterbury to Cronulla was on the table for a while. There were also some discreet inquiries from Sunday's rivals the Knights.

The Bulldogs had a figure in their head, as did Sharks coach Shane Flanagan. In the end, the Dogs gave a little, Flanno gave a little and Woods was forced to give up a little.

The actual deal happened ''in a split second''.

"I was training with the Bulldogs one morning and then I was here at the Sharks in the arvo,'' Woods says.

"I spoke to [Bulldogs coach] Dean Pay, he was was good with everything and said, 'it's a business decision, there's not much we can do, and if you go it will really help out the Dogs'.

"I didn't want the boys to suffer for a long period of time. I bit the bullet, have come here and it's been a really good move.''

Woods is one of the most likeable players in the game. He's laid-back, minimal fuss.

Flanagan likes to describe him as a ''man's man''.

Flanagan clearly has a soft spot for good players who are better blokes and don't take life too seriously. If they've played for NSW, all the better.

Not once did Flanagan fear Woods would be a broken man whose confidence was destroyed after his short-lived life as a Dog.

"I knew I was getting a player with a point to prove,'' Flanagan says.

"There were circumstances at the Bulldogs, but Woodsy is a Test player, an Origin player and I always thought I'd get a player with some fire in the belly who was ready to go.

"I had seen his football ability, but when he came here he was a man's man; there was no rubbish about him and what you get is what you see.

"He trains hard, is a good person and good around the group. His performances have been consistent; every week he's up there for the top metres, and last week [against North Queensland] was his best game for us, and there have been some good ones.''

Favourite son: Aaron Woods acknowledges the Tigers fans during a match against the Knights last season.

Favourite son: Aaron Woods acknowledges the Tigers fans during a match against the Knights last season.Credit:AAP

Woods' ability to play big minutes has suddenly put pressure on Andrew Fifita to make an even bigger statement in the early exchanges. The fact Woods was on the bench and ready to go allowed Flanagan to give Fifita an early spell against the Cowboys.

It was clear Fifita was unimpressed. But he responded with an important try.

If you're into conspiracy theories, Woods' arrival suddenly gives Cronulla the luxury of telling Fifita he can look elsewhere if he wants to at the end of the season.

Woods, who played with Fifita at the Tigers and NSW, is not fussed if he starts or continues off the bench.

The transition, Woods says, is made easier by having played with so many Sharks players in the past, be in the NSW under-18s team with Chad Townsend, or Origin with the likes of Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis, Wade Graham, Matt Moylan and Josh Dugan.

The wealth of experience also takes the pressure off Woods to lead the way every week.

"Flanno has given me a role; I'm not trying to overplay my hand and at the Dogs maybe that's what I was trying to do sometimes,'' Woods says.

His Bulldogs teammates still speak fondly about him. He'll square off against them next weekend.

He doesn't expect to be booed, given he was the player who moved on.

"It couldn't be worse than the Tigers reception,'' he says with a smile.

Adam Elliott misses Woods' energy around the club, while Aiden Tolman was the Dogs forward originally linked to Cronulla, only for an ankle injury at the start of the season to skittle that plan.

"That's the way rugby league is, there's always talk of players moving,'' Tolman says. "I got injured, I was out, then Woodsy went over there [to Cronulla].

"Good on him. He's a good player, an Australian and Origin player. Everyone knows he's got talent and it hasn't taken him long to settle in over there and play well.''

Woods is still gutted he missed out on the Blues' series win, but says how proud he is of best mates David Klemmer and James Tedesco, as well as Jake Trbojevic.

Woods summed up his tumultuous season best.

"I hate saying it, but people move from job to job – it's no biggie," he says. "Fans love their clubs. I didn't want to leave the Tigers, nor Canterbury. Things happen throughout your life and it's the journey you take.''

At least this journey won't end before September.

Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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