Dallin Watene-Zelezniak hopes an incredible season at fullback isn't a one-off at club and Test level after reiterating his intentions to make it hard for his coaches to remove him from the No.1 jersey in 2019.
Dally M medallist Roger Tuivasa-Sheck missed the Kiwis' international campaign this year through injury and Watene-Zelezniak has made the most of his opportunities with four tries in four games, including 16 tackle busts and 171 average running metres.
His form at club level is also expected to leave returning Penrith coach Ivan Cleary with a selection headache over the off-season with Dylan Edwards due back from a season-ending shoulder injury.
"I can't put into words how happy I am playing fullback," Watene-Zelezniak said.
"I'm just looking to finish the year for my own personal game, it's been an unbelievable year. Playing fullback is what I want to do so there's an opportunity for me there to enjoy my football and be happy."
Watene-Zelezniak was a shock choice for the captaincy role at 23 years of age in October but has proved to be a standout both on and off the paddock with the "c" next to his name against Australia and England.
He even insisted he would consider the role at the Panthers if Cleary came calling.
The Panthers installed hooker Peter Wallace as their captain in 2018 before his career ended early due to injury and James Maloney finished the season in the leadership role.
"That's up to Penrith, I love the captain role," Watene-Zelezniak said.
"For me it wasn't changing my game but rather just going out there and leading by example with the way I play and my actions.
"I really learnt a lot in talking, leading and being an example to the older boys. That was one thing I thought I would find hard – how would I lead older boys who have been there and done more than I have?
"I thought I could just earn the respect with the way I played and making that jersey and our country proud."
Kiwis coach Michael Maguire said he'll "think about that when the time comes" when asked where it leaves Watene-Zelezniak when Tuivasa-Sheck returns to the international fold.
Match: England v New Zealand
Round 2 -
Venue: Elland Road
Maguire has more than a dozen additional players who could come into contention for Kiwis selection next year, proving a victory on the weekend is important for the players on an individual basis despite a 2-0 series loss.
"I've seen improvements both on and off the field [but] it's the relationship that is the biggest key," Maguire said.
"If we keep doing the things we're doing and focus on little areas of our game I think those wins will come."