Off-contract Canterbury-Bankstown halfback Trent Hodkinson says he has begun negotiations with the club to extend his stay at Belmore beyond the end of this season.
The NSW Origin hero also insisted he was unperturbed by persistent rumours of the club's interest in Manly's ace duo Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans, and remained focused on leading the team to that evasive premiership – hopefully for a few years to come.
"It's just early talks. We're just seeing where things are at," Hodkinson told NRL.com at Rissalah College during the annual NRL Community Carnival.
"Obviously I'm still contracted for this year, but I'd love to stay at the club. My manager's onto it at the moment, but it's still early days and we'll see what happens."
Reports continue to emerge linking the Bulldogs to the two most in-demand players in the NRL player market for next season, with the Manly duo having also received interest from the Titans, Warriors and Eels.
But Hodkinson contended he had no power over such talk and vowed not to let the chatter affect his preparations as one of the central figures for coach Des Hasler this season.
"You can't let it affect you too much. It's out of my control. I'm actually good mates with 'Foz' from my Manly days. There's going to be talk no matter where you're at. We'll just have to see how it pans out," he said.
The biggest indication of the club's long-term plans for Hodkinson will be whether the 26-year-old playmaker will be named captain by season kick-off, one of several candidates Hasler will consider over the next fortnight.
The former Manly halfback, alongside teammate James Graham, led his side down the tunnel in last year's grand final defeat to South Sydney and has put his hand up to do so on a weekly basis this season.
"Just to lead the boys out alongside James in the grand final was a dream come true. Although we didn't get the result – it would've been nice – but just having that experience, I'll grow from that," he said.
"Dessie's one to keep it up his sleeve right until the final day, but look, it's just great to be mentioned.
"In my position, you've got to be a sort of captain on the field. You've got to be talking as a halfback. It just comes naturally. Whichever way he goes, I'm sure it'll be the best one for the team.
"James is a leader, and you've got a senior playing group of Aidan [Tolman], Sammy Perrett, Josh Morris and Frankie Pritchard there – so he's got a few options to choose from."
After beginning last season with two losses in their first three games, Hodkinson and the Bulldogs are aiming for an improved start to the year – one he hopes will help him retain his Blues jumper.
"I know you're never a certainty in Origin. You've got to start the season off well and I've got to make sure I'm ready to go. It's eight to nine games before the first Origin so I need to start well and get me and Joshy's combination going well right from the word go," he said.
"There's always great players in [Mitchell] Pearce and Adam Reynolds that were playing some good footy at the back end of last year. It's good for NSW having those players raring to go. I'd love to again, no doubt. We'll see what happens."
Hodkinson was at Rissalah College for a special classroom visit as part of the 15th annual Community Carnival this Saturday. The Bulldogs visited 7,000 students in 32 schools within their own backyard of Bankstown and surrounds.