Gareth Anscombe admits just a couple of months or so ago he had given no thought to travelling down State Highway 1 to join the Chiefs.
The 21-year-old Auckland goal-kicking first five-eighth had started nine matches for the Blues during the 2012 Super Rugby season and thought he still had a future with that franchise where he still had a contract.
But new coach John Kirwan didn't agree and delisted him, meaning he could be picked up by any other New Zealand franchise in the draft. The Chiefs pounced first and grabbed him as back-up to All Black Aaron Cruden.
"A couple of months ago this wasn't on my radar," Anscombe admitted this week.
"I guess footy goes around in funny circles sometimes but that's just part of the job. I have to move on from that and now I'm really excited to be here and can't wait for the season to start.
"This is a good learning environment and, obviously, their season spoke for itself this year so I'd like to be a part of that and hopefully we can get another [title] next year."
Already Anscombe has detected a strong, hard working culture with an impressive attention to detail within the Chiefs setup and is excited by the coaching lineup, with Andrew Strawbridge the only one he has been coached by before at Auckland.
"That was a big thing for me to learn off the likes of Dave [Rennie] and Smithy [Wayne Smith] and I hope to make positive returns to my footy career," he said. "I still hope to learn a lot and keep improving and try to push hard for a 10 spot.
"Obviously, there's a good All Black there but I'll try to earn a lot off Aaron."
If Cruden starts every game in 2013 as he did earlier this year in guiding the Chiefs to the Super Rugby title that won't be much but now there is a specialist backup in the pivot spot the coaches may take a different approach with such a long season.
Despite having tasted life as a starting first-five in a Super Rugby team, Anscombe believes he is capable of being pateint and using the time to learn and improve his game.
"I guess it has its positives and negatives. Aaron's a class player and he's showed that so it's a good chance for me to learn off him," he said.
He also wants to challenge Cruden for the spot and try to force the coaches to give him some game time and add value to the Chiefs.
One thing he is certain about is that going overseas was never an option.
"I'm only 21 and I still feel like my rugby career is only just starting," he said.
"Sure I've got that to fall back on and who knows what might happen in the next three years but I want to stick around and give it a crack here first.
"I still want to be an All Black and when I go I want to know I've given it my best shot.
"If I'm not good enough, so be it," Anscombe said.
- Waikato Times
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