Aaron Woods: ‘We can’t let each other down’
Cronulla Sharks star Aaron Woods says NRL players need to take accountability for their actions away from the footy field.
It’s been an off-season to forget for the NRL with up to 15 off-field scandals to have rocked the code in the last three months.
As a result, there are now calls for players who have criminal charges hanging over them to be stood down until the court process is carried out with salary cap relief an option to compensate clubs.
Woods says players need to realise the damage their actions could have on the game.
“I think that’s where the likes of Wade (Graham) and Paul (Gallen) have been really dominant in that area,” Woods said.
“Everyone thinks we’re just a footballer for the 80 minutes.
“We are footballers for 24 hours, seven days a week, that’s what Wade said and that is our job, we wear the logo with pride, everywhere we go we’re still representing the Sharks at all times.
“Whatever we get up to it’s always going to be on us, if we stuff up, it’s not just us that’s going to get in trouble, it’s the whole club and the brand.
“As a team we’ve made a pact and we can’t let each other down.”
It’s also been a difficult pre-season for the Shire-based team who’ve had to deal with the ongoing impact of a salary cap investigation which was self-reported by club CEO Barry Russell.
While former Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan resigned last month after being deregistered by the NRL following an investigation which found he allegedly breached the terms of his suspension.
Flanagan was seen to have corresponded with the club in 2014 when he was banned over the Sharks’ peptides scandal.
Former Shark John Morris took over the coaching reigns and Woods says he’d done a good job.
“He’s real organised and that made the transition a lot easier,” Woods said.
“I think the fact that he worked under Shane and as well he knew the systems and the structures, it wasn’t like there was a massive change that needed to be done, he only really fine-tuned a couple of things he wanted his way.
“The club has a lot of senior players, so it was business as usual, we can’t control the things that go on outside our footy circle.
“We’re there to play footy and that’s why we have good leaders like Wade Graham and Paul Gallen, they’re always coming in and relaying the fact that we’re here to play footy and that’s what we have to focus on, so they’ve got to take a lot of credit there as well.
“So I think the likes of Paul Gallen and Wade Graham and John Morris have done a really good job of keeping the boys on the straight and narrow.”
The news did get better for Sharks fans with utility James Segeyaro penning a new one-year deal with the club on Tuesday.
The Sharks will also be looking to see the transformation of youngsters Kyle Flanagan and Bronson Xerri into the top grade to cover the losses of Valentine Holmes and Luke Lewis this season.
Cronulla travel to Newcastle for their season opening clash on Friday, March 15.
Woods has played 173 First Grade games after first debuting at Wests Tigers in 2011, while he has also represented New South Wales and the Kangaroos.
Click ‘play’ to hear the full interview below.