MILTON-ULLADULLA Bulldogs product Matthew Bettington is hoping to build on his strong first season with the Melbourne Storm system, when his 2019 campaign kicks-off this weekend.
Bettington, who first penned a deal with the Storm in late 2017, was happy how his first season played out.
"The first season was a tough but enjoyable season," Bettington said.
"I learnt a lot and things I never thought that I would learn - I also got the chance to be around players I idolised growing up and people who I looked up to."
After making his debut with the Storm's under 20s side, which he labelled as the 'highlight of his year', Bettington said he has vastly developed as a player.
"Making my debut with the [Melbourne] under 20s side was a dream I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember and I’m grateful I got the chance to do that," he said.
"That opportunity helped my grow as a player - especially in terms of maturity both on and off the field.
"I learnt how to stay professional outside of the game while being professional inside of the game too - it's all about getting that balance."
But Bettington, who also played for the Sussex Panthers in his juniors, admitted the year wasn't without it own hurdles.
"The biggest challenge was definitely overcoming my shoulder being dislocated and spending weeks on the sideline," he said.
"The rehabilitation staff and strength and conditioning coaches definitely gave me the help to get back on top of the injury and got me back to my best footy."
On the back of all this, the 20-year-old decided to extend his stay in Victoria.
"Re-signing with the Storm was a major part of keeping down Victoria," he said.
"But outside of rugby league, I’ve found myself a great partner and family that I spend a lot of time with here in Victoria and they help and support me every step of the way."
While he hopes to push into the Storm's top squad at some point in 2019, Bettington will start the season with the Sunshine Coast Falcons - the Storm's feed team in Queensland's Intrust Super Cup.
"The major goal is to get a spot in the top squad and try and push for a number one or seven jersey," he said.
"But to start the season, I will be playing Queensland Cup for the Sunshine Coast Falcons.
"Another one of my goals is to just play consistent good footy and stay injury free.
"Last season, there were a few ups and downs and this year I’ve worked hard to play top footy all year round - I can't wait."
Bettington and his Falcons open their season against the Redcliffe Dolphins at Dolphin Stadium, with kick-off at 7pm on Saturday (AEST).