Parramatta utility Will Smith has confirmed he will remain at the club in 2018 and is confident he and current hooker Cameron King can combine and perform well in role.
With experienced No.9 Isaac De Gois out indefinitely and the season-ending knee injury to regular rake Kaysa Pritchard, King's long-awaited return to the Telstra Premiership was backed up by Smith's effort coming off the bench – a role he has played since joining the Eels.
While another utility in Connor Watson at the Roosters is looking elsewhere for a starting spot, Smith had other ideas and was keen to continue his development under Brad Arthur.
"I have just extended for another year, I'm loving the place, coaching staff and boys," Smith said.
"My main focus was to stay here, before I did my injury at Penrith last year Parramatta showed interest and stuck by me to get me back on the field so was happy to stay.
"I'm loving the role and with Kaysa going down it's unfortunate but Kingy is doing a good job and whatever position I'm given I want to do well.
"[Brad] has just said the position was mine to lose – like anyone across the park and come next year I want to push for that nine position or anywhere in the backline."
The Eels face a Melbourne Storm outfit missing six players through Origin duty – the highest Maroons representation from Craig Bellamy's side in over a decade.
Despite facing a depleted side, Smith is adamant their second-half effort against the Bulldogs would not work against a more confident opposition.
"They're a class team and it doesn't matter who's out for them," Smith said.
"Whoever they've put in have done a job for them and in the forward pack they're only missing Cameron Smith [and Tim Glasby] so they're still good in the middle.
"The slow start to second halves has been hurting us for a couple of weeks now, we're going well in the first halves but need to fix that up.
"It's just us as a playing group and it's a problem area and we are aware of it."
After narrowly scraping past the Bulldogs, Parramatta are now sitting comfortably in eighth position – four points clear of the ninth-placed Panthers.
Eels teammate Daniel Alvaro wasn't getting too far ahead but admits the side were watching the Telstra Premiership ladder with interest.
"It will be nice to get these two points, and make it four. But there is still a long time to go in the year, so we are just taking it one week at a time," he said.
"We want to get through this next week, and see where we are at, but we are hoping to push for the top four heading into the finals.
"Hopefully we can get them (Melbourne) this week and go on from there."