Gareth Steenson is set to call time on his Exeter Chiefs career


Mark Stevens – PPA Sports Content

Gareth Steenson is set to call time on his Exeter Chiefs career, bringing to a close a 16-year association with the club.

The 40-year-old has today announced that this will be his last campaign at Sandy Park, after which he will return to his native Northern Ireland to pursue new opportunities with him and his family.

It will bring to a close a remarkable journey for the Dungannon-born playmaker, who has been instrumental in the rise of the Devon club in recent years.

“I’ve had a great journey and one which I’ve been very fortunate to be on both sides,” said Steenson. “I’ve been in the changing room, I’ve been in the coaches office, I’ve seen it from all different angles.

“Along the way, I’ve met some great people, on the pitch, off the pitch, but for me I think the time is right to move on and look at other opportunities and different things in different fields.”

Steenson joined the Chiefs back in 2009 from the Cornish Pirates and went onto become the club’s leading points-scorer of all time during a distinguished playing career that saw him win a European Champions Cup, two Premiership titles and three Premiership Rugby Cups, one of which was as a coach.

“It was tough, we’ve been back and forth about this for quite a long time,” added Steenson. “I’d say probably over the last 18 months we’ve talked about the potential of moving back home and we’ve talked about that at great lengths, especially around the kids and the opportunities they are going to get.

“It’s been soul-searching because Exeter’s been a big part of my life, especially my adult life, and it’s given me so many great memories and great opportunities, so I’ll forever be grateful for that, the people like Tony Rowe, Rob Baxter, everyone at the club and, of course, the supporters, who have been amazing.”

Rejected by Ulster as a youngster, Steenson used the hurt of that exit to help nurture a career that saw him achieve numerous personal and team goals, particularly with the Chiefs.

His kicking prowess was legendary and is the stuff of folklore for Chiefs supporters, who will fondly remember a rainy night in Bristol back in 2010, as well as his heroics in 2017 to help the club lift their maiden Premiership crown.

By 2020, his playing days were done, sealed with a historic European and Premiership double. However, within weeks he was challenging himself in a new way, part and parcel of the Chiefs coaching set-up.

“It was bizarre,” he says. “Two weeks’ prior, I was sitting in the changing room having a beer with the lads and celebrating arguably the biggest success the club had ever had. Now, I was walking into the coaching office, the door shut behind me, and prepping for a new season. I didn’t know what to wear, what to say, even where I was sitting.”

Four years on, Steenson has been involved in unearthing a new crop of Chiefs, many of whom have been entrusted to take the club forward, much in the same vein as he did all those years ago.

“I take a lot of pride in seeing how they’ve all done and I’d like to think that if I’ve helped them in some kind of way, then that’s a huge thing for me.”

For the full interview with Gareth - Read this week's Rugby Paper.

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