Ulster splashing the cash on Stephen Ferris
Stephen Ferris has signed a two-year extension to his IRFU contract, committing him to Ulster until June 2013.
Despite some very attractive financial packages on offer from England and France, Ferris prefers home cooking and local social life to an exotic lifestyle in the south of France.
The 25-year-old Ireland and Lions flanker is in the final year of his current contract, but negotiations were completed quickly and efficiently.
It is understood that the new contract will see Ferris earn in the region of £5,000 a week, making him the highest paid home-grown player in Ulster’s history.
“It means everything to me,” said Ferris, who made his Ulster debut at the start of the 2005 season. “This is home. I was born and raised here, and it will also keep my mum happy as she will have her son at home for another two years!
“I wanted negotiations to be done and dusted very quickly and that has been achieved. I didn't want it to affect my rugby in any way and fair play to the IRFU, they handled it very well.
“Ulster is the team I've always followed and I have a huge desire to achieve something big with the club.
“I don't want to leave Ulster without winning something.
“I'm competing against top-quality players every single week for my place in the team.
“I've got to be absolutely on top of my game to ensure I'm selected and that challenge keeps me hungry and makes sure that I am working to be the best player I can be.”
Ferris was also linked at one stage to a possible move to Munster, but David Humphreys and Brian McLaughlin managed to convince him that great things for him and Ulster are in the offing this season.
Ferris, a member of the 2009 Grand Slam side who won the first of his 20 Ireland caps against the Pacific Islands in 2006, agrees that the future of Ulster looks very promising on the back of two Magners League wins.
“In many ways, operations manager David Humphreys has made it very easy to stay,” he said.
“He has a vision for Ulster that I've bought into and he recruited well and built a squad that I'm delighted to remain a part of.
“Every season is a fresh start to an extent, but this season is different. There is a definite sense that this is the start of something special.
“There's a buzz around the squad and organisation as a whole, not just among the players and staff but among our supporters.
“Our young squad of players is growing up together and when you throw in the big names that have signed over the summer, I'm very optimistic that we will live up to our potential and excited that I'm going to be a part of it.”
Ferris’ decision will further amplify the feel-good factor that is currently reverberating around Ravenhill after the superb captures of Springboks Pedrie Wannenburg, Johann Muller and Ruan Pienaar among others, combined with an unbeaten start to the new Magners League campaign.
And he says those new faces have helped to build a sense that ‘something special’ is just around the corner.