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Out of the Woods: Sharks recruit ready to break finals drought

It has been seven years since Aaron Woods played finals football. Which is why he isnt particularly fond of that time of the season.

“Normally I hate the September time of the year,” Woods said.

Finals ready: New Sharks recruit Aaron Woods.

Photo: AAP

But one of the longest finals droughts in NRL history will soon come to an end. Woods last played semis for Wests Tigers way back in 2011, which is 138 NRL games ago. With the exception of SImon Mannering (147 games) and Ben Matulino (142 games), no current player – save for Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson (also 138 games) has experienced a longer gap between finals appearances.

It has been a difficult 12 months for Woods, going from a one-club man to a player suiting up for his third team during that period. However, his latest move, from Canterbury to Cronulla, will ensure the former NSW and Australian prop again gets to participate in finals footy.

“Definitely, thats what everyone plays for, to be there in September and the first week of October,” Woods told Fairfax Media.

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“Things obviously didnt work out at the Tigers and the Bulldogs. Im at a club where Im really enjoying it and its a bit of a reward at the end of the day to play semi-final footy.

“2011 was the last time with the Tigers.

“I played a few rep games here and there that have been big games, but normally I hate the September time of the year.

“Its really exciting, Im really looking forward to it.”

Woods made his first-grade debut for the Tigers in his first year and immediately played in the big season-ending games. His first finals appearance was a win against the Dragons, but the memories arent so fond after that.

“It was a disappointing way to get knocked out too,” he recalled.

“It was awesome, the crowd was nuts, they were going bezerk. But it was a deflating experience afterwards because we lost to the Warriors and they went on to make the grand final.”

Woods was paraded with much fanfare as one of Canterburys big offseason recruit alongside Kieran Foran. However, the stint end abruptly due the the Bulldogs salary cap dramas. Needing to free up space, he was released to Cronulla before the June 30 transfer window closed.

Despite posting reasonable statistics, Woods was singled out for his form at the Bulldogs.

“Its part of footy, youve got to take the good with the bad,” he said.

“Ive been pretty lucky in my career to only come under scrutiny in the last year.

“Its sucks at the time, you get a bit frustrated because you try too hard and thats when you get a few errors into your game. You go away from your game because you try to do more, but you know what works best for you. Thats what Shane (Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan) said, not to overplay my hand and just play footy.”

Woods considers himself a loyal person, but found himself at three clubs within the space of a year.

“Its different, but its part of life,” he said.

“You have to roll with the punches. Not everything goes the way you want it, its not all smooth sailing.

“At the end of the day you keep doing what youre doing, keep turning up. You play the footy you know you can, Im at the Sharks here now and I want to stay here for the rest of my life.

“I love it down here.

“You want to go to a club where youre happy. I was happy at the Bulldogs but obviously theres no lie with all the salary cap stuff that happened there, which was out of my hands.

“At the end of the day I just want to play footy and be happy. I love playing the game, playing in rep sides and playing in finals is a bonus.

“At the end of the day, you want to be happy.

LONGST STRETCH BETWEEN FINALS APPEARANCES

147 Simon Mannering (2011-)

143 Kade Snowden (2008-2016)

142 Ben Matulino (2011-)

139 Jacob Lillyman (2011-)

138 Shaun Johnson (2011-)

138 Aaron Woods (2011-)

138 Luke Stuart (2001-2011)

Source: Champion Data

Adrian Proszenko is the Chief Rugby League Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.

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