Jeremy Marshall-King concedes he's playing for his future at the Bulldogs after a three-month injury lay-off hampered his chances of staying at Belmore.
Marshall-King returned to the paddock in sublime fashion against the Dragons on Monday to help deliver the Bulldogs their second win of the season.
Canterbury coach Trent Barrett praised Marshall-King's performance post-match and said the side had missed his services at hooker while making no secret previously it's an area the club is looking to recruit new personnel.
While the motivation for the team remains getting off the bottom of the Telstra Premiership ladder, the 25-year-old is one of 16 players at the club without deals for 2022.
"I've got a contract to play for so it's a good start to get back on the field," Marshall-King told NRL.com.
Every try from Round 14
"It's a great club and Baz is building with new players so I want to be here and be part of a club that's on the up in the next few years.
"I've got to keep improving and see what happens. It's definitely on my mind, I've just got to try and play my best footy."
Marshall-King injured his foot in the All Stars game in February and was sidelined for a month before reaggravating the injury in a setback that required surgery.
Match Highlights: Bulldogs v Dragons
He said his 80-minute return game, in which he scored a try and ran for 86 metres out of dummy half, was a "start" in his quest to earn another contract at the club or elsewhere.
"It's been pretty frustrating because I've had the last 19 weeks to get my body right and watch from the sideline looking at where we need to improve," he said.
"The game is fast now so when those opportunities came for me I needed to bring my running game.
"Being a former half it's good to have it in the back pocket, to have that eyes-up mentality and play what's in front of you, but I've got to keep doing that now."
Marshall-King and Bulldogs halfback Jake Averillo will be key to winning back-to-back games for the first time since 2019 against the Eels on Sunday.
"He was unreal, it was like he didn't miss a game," Averillo said of Marshall-King.
Averillo does it all himself for the Bulldogs
"His running game was good, he had everyone on the front foot and it made my job a lot easier.
"A couple more wins like that [Dragons game] can give us a lot of confidence for the rest of the season."
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