Lichaa set to stay at Belmore
He was farewelled by the club back in August following their win over the Sea Eagles but it appears as though that might have been premature with Michael Lichaa set to sign a contract extension with the Bulldogs in the coming weeks.
Lichaa, along with departing players Josh Reynolds, Sam Kasiano, Craig Garvey and Tyrone Phillips, were farewelled on stage at ANZ Stadium following their Round 24 win over Manly, but the 24-year-old isn't going anywhere and is close to finalising a new deal that will keep him at Belmore for the next couple of years.
"I'll be sticking around for another couple of years," Lichaa said at a media opportunity at the Overseas Passenger Terminal in Sydney as he prepares for Lebanon's World Cup campaign.
"I've agreed, so hopefully in the next few weeks we can get the papers all signed and hopefully we can get that sorted. We've come to an agreement so I'm pretty excited.
"It was a bit of a relief. As soon as the season finished…it's been going back and forth for the last four or five weeks, so to come to an agreement has been a weight lifted off my shoulders.
"We were talking to a few clubs, but as soon as I knew that the Dogs were interested in me, I told my manager to get that done. I just want to repay the club for bringing me there in the first place and I've got a bit to prove in the next few years."
Restricted in what he could do by recently-sacked coach Des Hasler, the writing was on the wall for Lichaa when he managed just 21 minutes in a six-week period that had most people assuming he would be shown the door at season's end.
It would have been a sad way for him to go given he hadn't been allowed to play to his strengths, but an about-face in Round 24 saw him return to the starting side, with Lichaa's running game sparking the Bulldogs to a three-game winning streak to finish the season.
The City representative ran for a season-high 95 metres in Round 25 and then scored the winning try the following week to knock the Dragons out of the finals race.
Having been told to simply pass the ball and make his tackles for the best part of three years, Lichaa used the final few weeks of the season to show the club and other potential suitors that the hype surrounding his signing back in 2015 was justified.
"I never wanted to leave," he said.
"I don't think I ever lost my ability to play and I don't think I was playing terrible because I still put my body on the line and I did 50 tackles a game.
"With the ball I wasn't doing exactly what I wanted to, but there's a bit of a change with the coach now. I was pretty lucky to get the opportunity to get back in the team in that last month of footy, otherwise I'm not sure what would have happened.
"I didn't really have anything to lose. I didn't play the six weeks – well three of them I came on with five minutes to go – so I thought 'what's the worst thing that can happen; I get dropped again?' so I just ran the ball again and I think that's my game.
"There are all different kinds of hookers and I went into those last few games thinking to run first off a quick play-the-ball and pass second, and if I got tackled with the ball then it wasn't the end of the world.
"I think that's my style of play; there are obviously other hookers like Robbie (Lebanon teammate Robbie Farah) who are out and out ball-players and he'll get out and do that, but that's not the style that I am and I'll probably never be that style. I think if I have the run-first mentality then the rest will come like the pass and the offload."
Lichaa said there were no hard feelings towards Hasler and that he's looking forward to working with incoming coach Dean Pay who mentored him in the 2012 and 2013 under-20s Origin series for the NSW Blues.
"I still love my three years under Des and I still learnt a lot, but in another way, it's going to be a bit of a change," he said.
"I know Deano – I've had him before – and I'm pretty sure I'll play that kind of way for the rest of my time there. It'll be good to just run the ball; I can't wait!
"I had him a couple of years for under-20s Origin. He's pretty laid back and he's very approachable.
"When I had him for those few weeks, we just kept the game plan simple. When it was under-20s and those rep teams, you got there because you were a good player and you just play your game.
"I'm sure Dean will keep it simple – he seems like that kind of bloke – but I'm sure there'll be some tough sessions. All I've heard is that he was the toughest player to ever play so I'm sure there'll be some big contact sessions come the start of the year."