In what promises to be a week to remember for Phil Dollman, not only is the Exeter Chiefs back poised to run out for his 100th league appearance this weekend, but he has today confirmed a new two-year deal with the Aviva Premiership club.
Signed in 2009 from the Newport-Gwent Dragons, the talented Welshman has played an integral part in the recent rise of the Chiefs.
In his first season at Sandy Park, Dollman helped the Devon club to get promoted into the Premiership and has since gone on to be a key figure in Rob Baxter’s squad as the Chiefs took on the elite of both the English and European game.
With his current deal due to expire at the end of the season, Baxter has wasted little time in ensuring the versatile 29-year-old will be prolonging his stay with the Chiefs.
“It’s been a really enjoyable part of my life and a key part of my career, the Chiefs have got the best out of me and I feel like I’ve put everything into the club,” said Dollman after putting pen to paper on his new contract.
“I was happy to extend my stay here, I always felt comfortable with that decision, there were never really any other options for me – Exeter was always the place I wanted to stay.”
Dollman’s decision to remain in Exeter will certainly provide Baxter will the ideal boost ahead of this weekend’s league encounter with Wasps.
However, Dollman himself is excited by what the future holds and says the experiences he has gained, coupled with the vision of the club, made his decision to sign on again very simple.
“When I first came down there was a feeling that this was a really professional set up and a club striving to be higher than it was in the Championship,” added Dollman.
“I felt it was a club that looked more than a Championship side and felt more than a Championship side. That’s obviously come about but it exceeded my expectations for how quickly that came about and how we’ve adapted and moved forward as a club.
“We’ve kept improving and that’s something I’ve enjoyed being a part of as a player, having to keep improving to try to keep up with the squad because everyone seems to be improving daily at the moment.”
And with the Chiefs having collected their first piece of major silverware last term when they won the LV= Cup against Northampton Saints, Dollman feels the upward curve of the club still has plenty of life in it yet.
He continued: “I think we’ve been on a steady rise and there’s no sitting back from the coaches or anyone else, everyone is pushing and striving to be the best they can.
“For me that means only one thing, namely that everyone is going to keep improving and we’ve shown at the start of this season that we’ve got other things to offer than we had in the past and we’re developing our game.
“Along with the development at Sandy Park, it feels like there’s a whole package being built that hopefully will be a big power in years to come.”
As well as his new deal, however, Dollman will on Saturday have the honour of leading his team out into battle against Wasps for what will be a milestone moment in his career.
“To be honest, I’m very excited by it all. It’s slowly crept up on me and over the last few games I have been keeping a close eye on things. Looking at the centurions board there are some great names on there and it will be great to join them. I’ve enjoyed playing for this club and loved every single game I’ve played, but hopefully there’s a lot more to come yet.
“Playing here it’s been like home for me. Exeter is a very easy place to settle down and the club and the boys have been great. Since I arrived things have really exceeded my expectations and I’ve gone on to enjoy so many good times here.”
And Dollman admits the way the Chiefs have quietly gone about their business, defying the critics along the way who initially doubted their Premiership and European credentials, has been something he and his team-mates have certainly savoured.
He said: “It was good to turn that underdogs tag around, but a lot of work has gone into doing that over the last few years. Yes, it was a big achievement for us as a club to come up like we did and then turn it around as quickly as we did. However, it was down to hard work, effort and people wanting to improve. We’ve seen other clubs come up and struggle, so we did buck the trend a bit, but we’ve also kept improving each year and long may that continue.”
With Dollman on board for the next two years at least, Baxter’s Chiefs know they have the personnel in place to carry on that trend for many a year yet.