Lachlan Lewis has declared he wants to be Canterbury-Bankstown's long-term halfback beyond this season after playing his first NRL match since round eight in Sunday's 20-12 loss against the Roosters.
The 22-year-old was a casualty of the Bulldogs' torrid start to the season, dropped to the Canterbury Cup before a six-week syndesmosis injury compounded his woes.
Lewis is contracted to Canterbury until the end of 2020 but his manager told NewsCorp Australia last month he would consider the playmaker's options elsewhere to ensure he gets regular NRL action.
However, Lewis is keen to remain at Canterbury and chalked up his manager's comments to irritation about the situation.
"I'd love to," Lewis told NRL.com when asked if he hopes to wear the Bulldogs No.7 jersey for years to come.
"My manager's always out there trying to find what's best for me in terms of where I'm playing. I read the article and I think he was just getting frustrated with how many fans were messaging him for explanations as to why [I was dropped].
"He'll manage that side of the business, I'll manage the football side."
While Dogs supporters were crying out for Lewis to be reinstated to first grade, he took the opportunity to improve areas that coach Dean Pay highlighted as shortcomings.
Match Highlights: Bulldogs v Roosters
Strengthening his defence was high on the list and he stood tall against the Roosters, making 18 tackles and missing just one.
"He wanted me to work on a few aspects of my defence and he had to give a new combination a try because of our performances at the start [of the year]," Lewis said.
"As a half, you always take the team performances pretty heavily on yourself. So when I was playing, [he told me] what he wanted me to improve and trying to go and do that and not getting down and trying to stay positive."
Lewis thinks he gained a mental toughness from the setbacks of being axed from the NRL and suffering an injury a month later.
"It was a massive character builder," he said.
"[It was hard] coming back to the Canterbury Cup, managing that and trying to find positives and where you can work on your game and earn some playing time back in firsts.
"And then dealing with the frustration of getting an injury and it being six weeks [out]. It definitely tested me and tested the people around me because I get a bit grumpy.
"But I think I've come out the other end and definitely have a stronger character from that."
Despite a solid display against the Roosters at ANZ Stadium - save for a crucial dropped ball from the kick-off in the second half - Lewis is no certainty to keep his place next week as veteran Kieran Foran nears a return from a hamstring strain.
Foran and Jack Cogger have been Pay's preferred scrum-base combination for much of the season.
"[Foran] is running. We thought he would be right this week but I'm just guided by the medical team," Pay said.
Bulldogs: Round 19
Pay said Lewis was able to brush off the error which quelled Canterbury's momentum and led to a Roosters try but conceded the halfback's attention to detail was lacking.
"He moves on pretty quickly … Those are the type of errors we can cut out straight away," Pay said.
"That's an area we need to make sure we're a lot better in. I think it's a concentration thing. With Lachy, he's still only young and he's still learning."