Canterbury Bulldogs centre Josh Morris heard the salary cap speculation and feared he could be the third high-profile club stalwart forced out of Belmore.
The 31-year-old centre conceded it’s "never nice” hearing your name connected to stories about being shopped around by club officials but with Canterbury now officially salary cap compliant he was relieved the focus had returned to the Telstra Premiership.
A long-time fan favourite, a mooted departure for Morris would have been particularly tough to swallow for Dogs supporters given the departure of popular senior players Josh Reynolds and James Graham.
It also would have been a huge disappointment to Morris himself, who is acutely aware next season will be his 10th in blue and white – and one he is determined to celebrate by helping his team return to the finals after missing out for the first time since 2011.
"It's never nice hearing things in the paper and being linked to other clubs so now [the club's cap position] is set in stone, those rumours all disappear and we can focus on the football moving forward," Morris told NRL.com.
"It's my 10th season in the blue and white so I'm certainly looking forward to that. With all the salary cap stuff now being cleared, both of us [along with twin Brett] can just get on with it."
Morris remains off contract at the end of 2018, but at this early stage is not immediately concerned about what his playing future holds beyond that.
He laughed when reminded of recent public comments that he would look at a New York franchise if one got off the ground.
"Yeah it was more of a throwaway line, but look, if they're interested you'd have to consider it," Morris said.
"You saw the success of the Toronto Wolfpack and they went really well. If they're looking to expand it can only be a good thing for the game and being a pioneer for a club would be a nice thing as well.
"It could be an option down the track but it's not right on top of the list that's for sure."
What is at the top of the list is starting 2018 strongly from both a personal and club point of view and that gets underway in Perth against premiers Melbourne in Perth on March 10.
"It is something a bit different and I think the stadium looks outstanding," Morris said.
"We played over in Perth a few years ago against the Storm [in Round 4, 2014] and came away with the win so it would be nice to replicate that first round.
"But it will just be important to see where we're at and how we've fared in the pre-season. To get the premiers first round will be an indication of where we're at, definitely.
"They'll be looking to start the year off well, I don't think they've lost in the first round for over 10 years. We had them round one last year and they got us as well. It's going to be a good test first up."
Morris was adamant the addition of high-calibre recruits in his former NSW teammate Aaron Woods and Kiwi international Kieran Foran would help the Bulldogs bank a few more wins.
"They're both quality players. Woodsy's a front-rower for Australia and Kieran probably should have been in the New Zealand [World Cup] side but pulled out with injury," Morris said of the two international stars.
"It's good to have that quality and calibre of player and I think they'll bring that professionalism to the squad and that experience and hopefully they have big seasons.
"[Foran] has won a premiership and played plenty of Test football and he's still relatively young as well. He's got that experience on his side, no doubt that's going to be helpful for whoever's in the halves with him this year and also for the spine as well.
"He'll probably lead us around and his communication will definitely help those other halves and hookers and fullbacks as well."