With his short-term future settled, Liam Gill has shifted his attention to bedding down a long-term future in green and gold.
The Queensland Reds hardman ended months of speculation by penning a one-year contract extension to give the Super Rugby battlers a rare flash of good news at the end of a terrible season.
The length of the deal was Gill’s call, as he now looks to dethrone Wallabies flankers Michael Hooper and David Pocock and re-establish himself as a bonafide Test option.
“It keeps the pressure on all fronts,” Gill said on Friday morning before the Reds departed for Sydney, ahead of their clash with the NSW Waratahs on Saturday night.
“I have to come out and play good football again for another season to then see what I do beyond this.
“I’ve now proven that I do want to stay at the Reds and I love the Reds.
“Now I’d like to cement myself in the ARU’s point of view and try and move forward in Australian rugby.”
Gill had been strongly linked to the Melbourne Rebels, while there were also rumours that he would only stay with Queensland provided off-contract coach Richard Graham did not.
The 23-year-old has been one of the best loose forwards in Super Rugby this year, leading the competition in turnovers forced and ruck involvements, while he is third overall in back-row players for runs.
If his form did not make his signature enough of a priority, the impending departures of James Horwill and Will Genia, plus the possibility that Quade Cooper could move to France next year, made Gill’s retention an absolute must for Queensland.
Gill said it was his loyalty to the franchise – where he has spent his entire post-school career to date – that clinched his decision.
“Pride and just the idea of trying to turn this team around are two of the major factors,” Gill said.
“I’ve invested five years of my time in where the club is gotten and understanding they’ve invested even longer in me.
“To walk out on that was always going to be a hard decision, and it’s something I guess I had too much pride in the jersey to do at this point in time.”
Graham said it was now up to Gill to prove to Wallabies coach Michael Cheika that he belongs at Test level.
Saturday night’s clash against Cheika’s Waratahs – and his mouthwatering battle with Hooper – looms as the perfect opportunity to do just that.
“I think he needs an opportunity at that level and once he gets that opportunity, I think he’ll stay there for a long time,” Graham said.
“His all-round game is outstanding.
“He’s developed his line-out, his ability to link and pass is exceptional and his work on and around the ball is as good as anyone in the competition.”