Gareth Steenson has spoken of his delight after putting pen to paper on a new two-year deal with the Exeter Chiefs.
The club’s record points-scorer is to extend his stay at Sandy Park until at least the end of 2019/20 season and is the first indication from Director of Rugby Rob Baxter that he is keen to keep hold of a number of his frontline stars moving forward.
Signed by the Chiefs back in the summer of 2010 from the Cornish Pirates, the 33-year-old fly-half has played an integral part in the recent rise of Exeter out of the Championship and into one of the leading rugby’s forces within the European game.
With over 250 appearances in all competitions and a points tally of 2,331, the Dungannon-born playmaker has been the headline maker on numerous occasions, most notably last May when his winning kick helped the Chiefs to lift the Aviva Premiership for the first time in the club’s history.
This season, Steenson has again forged himself as the regular custodian at No.10, producing some impressive displays as the Chiefs have positioned themselves in pole position in terms of their title defence.
As one of a number of current Chiefs whose contracts are set to expire at the end of the current season, Baxter has wasted little time in ensuring one of his prized assets remains here in the Westcountry.
“Obviously I’m very pleased and I’m really enjoying my rugby here,” said Steenson. “To sign the new deal is very exciting for both me and my family. I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with the squad over the years and I’ve seen the place develop hugely to the position we are in now.
“Moving forward, I can only see the club going from strength to strength and I am delighted to be part that. I view Exeter as my club and I have done so for many years. As I said, it’s great to get my future sorted and now that I’ll be here for another couple of seasons at least enjoying my rugby.”
As one of the few remaining members of the so-called ‘Originals’ who helped the club out of the Championship in 2010, Steenson has risen to the challenge, year by year, in developing himself and the club at the higher level.
With various challenges over the years for his starting spot, Steenson insists the competition for places has merely helped to bring the best out of him and his team-mates.
“Of course it makes me better, but it also makes the squad better,” added the Irishman. “We have competition across the board and it’s very much if you don’t perform one week, you don’t play the next. It’s probably taken me a few more years to learn that, but to be in the position I am now, seeing the young fellas coming through, they are the ones pushing the club forward and I feel fortunate to train and play with them because ultimately they are making me a better player.”
Indeed, Steenson insists the contribution of his team-mates, many of whom have grown up alongside him, is helping to drive standards onwards and upwards at Sandy Park.
“Of course new guys coming inuring new things and add to the mix, but we’ve also got a group of guys who have been here a lengthy time,” he continued. “They may be 24, 25 years of ago, but they’ve played a big part in things and are enjoying what we want to achieve, as am I.
“Getting to the final and losing it the other year, it may felt quite nice as an achievement for that season, but to go back the following year, especially after we didn’t have the best of starts, and to win it like we did, was fantastic. Now there is a real desire amongst us all to push on and win as much as we can.
“Personally, I tend to take things week to week - and I’ve had to adapt my game and my body shape over the years, so if it means doing more recovery or going to bed earlier, so be it. Physically, I feel in good shape, I’m enjoying my rugby and looking forward to what the future holds in store for me.”
Steenson, who is celebrating his testimonial year at the club this season, also praised the impact the Chiefs faithful have had on him during his time in Exeter colours.
“The support of the fans is huge for me,” said Steenson. “Like all of us, they’ve been on the journey and they’ve grown in numbers as much as the club has grown. I’ve got to know a lot of them personally, especially having the testimonial this year, so it has been nice to share things with them.
“They’ve also been great for me and my family. From day one we’ve loved it here and although it’s can be a nervy time when it comes to contracts, I’m delighted that it’s all sorted now and that I can focus fully on what I hope will be an exciting and successful future.”