When Zac Woolford was told his services would not be required at the Newcastle Knights this year, he headed back home to Canberra thinking his NRL dream was over.
“I went back to Canberra during the off-season with nothing,” he told NSWRL.com.au.
“I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.”
He had already made two other pit stops in his hopes of making it to first-grade at the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and the Raiders.
But they too turned out to be just that – pit stops – and soon enough, still unwanted, he was off to his next destination.
“It’s been tough,” Woolford said.
“There’s definitely times there where you doubt yourself and wonder if it’s ever going to happen.”
The signs were promising early after he joined Canterbury on a two-year deal off the back of a stellar season with the Raiders in the Holden Cup in 2016.
Woolford was nominated for the Dally M Holden Cup Player of the Year Award, finishing the season with 144 points, four tries and 23 line break assists.
Two years later he hoisted both the NSW Cup and NRL State Championship in the air as he helped the Bulldogs to memorable wins in both matches.
Still, he was let go.
An opportunity rose at Newcastle and Woolford got straight into training, bypassing the opportunity to take a break and return to pre-season duties later after playing finals into October with Canterbury.
Again, he packed up his things and was on the road but this time he admits he was not sure where it was heading.
Woolford admitted that he thought his first-grade dream may be over as he headed back to the nation’s capital.
“(It) was probably more did I want to keep pursuing it,” he said.
That’s when the Newtown Jets stepped in.
“I got a call from Greg Matterson, the Newtown coach, and after a couple of chats with him he got me wanting to play footy again,” Woolford said.
“You really want to play for him, he’s really good at getting that out of his players.
“It was ‘Matto’ (Matterson) that got me back and I’m really stoked with that decision.”
Running out for the Jets in their opening round clash against the Rabbitohs at Redfern Oval, Woolford was not sure late last year that he would be able to say that he would be back this time around.
He now joins his fourth club at just 23 years old.
Asked how he has been able to cope with the transient nature of his career, Woolford says no matter where he is, the longing to fulfill a lifelong dream has always been there.
“Getting that first-grade debut, that’s been the goal since I started playing footy,” he said.
“Nothing changes there.
“You’ve just go to be willing to keep working hard and I’ll go wherever the opportunity comes up.”