Mack Hansen, Andy Friend's Australian find, has signed a new contract that keeps him at the Sportsground till 2025.
It is a good piece of business from Connacht to get Hansen's signature now, although his current contract did not end for another year.
Understandably Connacht Rugby are "thrilled" the 23-years-old has committed his long-term future to Connacht, and Friend says there is more to come from the former Brumbies' player.
"Mack has made an immeasurable impact on the club since his arrival. He’s a popular character with the players, staff and supporters, and it’s been really pleasing to see him take to rugby in Ireland like a duck to water.
"For him to commit the next three years of his career to Connacht when he’ll only get better is a really strong show of faith in where we’re going as a club on and off the field, and I look forward to seeing Mack continue to develop and grow as a player during that time too."
The affable Aussie quickly established himself as a key player on Friend's team and a crowed pleaser at the Sportground with his ability to jink, weave, and burst through space, scoring six tries in 14 matches since arriving from the Brumbies.
Those performances quickly caught the eye of the national set up, earning him a first call-up for the November internationals, after which he became a regular for the Guinness Six Nations, starting in four of Ireland’s five games and scoring a famous try against France in Paris.
Hansen says extending his contract was a "no-brainer".
"Ever since I arrived in Ireland I cannot speak highly enough of the staff and my teammates who have made me feel right at home. Personally I’m pleased with how my first season has gone and now I want to do everything I can to help the club achieve success for the next three seasons.
"The possibility of training and playing in Connacht Rugby’s new stadium and High Performance Centre was also a major attraction for me, so I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me and for Connacht."
Twelve players leaving
Twelve players are leaving Connacht at the end of this season, including several long-time loyal servants to the province.
Ultan Dillane, as previously announced is moving on, similarly wing Matt Healy, and this week Eoghan Masterson, after nine years at the Sportsground, joins that list of players who will no longer feature for Connacht.
Masterson, who has played 117 games for Connacht, has been a real servant, both on and off the field, having joined the Connacht Academy in 2013. Like his younger brother Sean, Masterson was born to play rugby - his father and uncles having played the game in Scotland - and he quickly stood out as a leader.
He enjoyed something of a "rollercoaster" ride to professional rugby through the Portlaoise RFC youth system, Leinster sub-academy, the Irish U19/20s, and a World Cup U20 campaign with Scotland.
Epitomising the new breed of young Connacht player whose stature and confidence grew within the Connacht Rugby structure, Masterson, worked hard on becoming bigger, stronger, and improving his skills. In his first year of a development contract, he played nine of the season's Connacht's fixtures in a hugely competitive back row.
However, the versatile and intelligent back row player, who preferred No 8, was hit by injury, and although not often, they were long-term injuries, which certainly affected his ambitions to play for Ireland.
Also leaving is Matt Healy, who is retiring. A key player in Connacht's successful PRO12 trophy winning season, Healy scored 58 tries in 151 appearances for the province since joining in 2012. The former Lansdowne player was the ideal winger, both fast and strong, who often lit up the Sportsground.
The former Lansdowne player says: "It has been a privilege to call myself a professional rugby player for the past 10 years, but now is the time to go. It was a different time when I arrived in Galway back in 2012 and I never dreamed of what @connachtrugby could achieve. The west of Ireland is an incredible part of the world, filled with special people who have captured the hearts of those closest to me over the years. I am immensely proud of the part I have played in giving them a progressive club of which they can be proud."
Others leaving at the end of the season are Sammy Arnold and Abraham Papali’i, as previously announced; four front row players Tietie Tuimauga, Greg McGrath, Jonny Murphy, and Dominic Robertson-McCoy, and backs Peter Robb, Ben O'Donnell and Peter O'Sullivan.
Connacht Rugby 2022/23 squad currently stands at 44. is: Forwards (24 )Jack Aungier, Finlay Bealham, Ciaran Booth, Paul Boyle, Senis Buckley, Matthew Burke, Jarrad Butler, Shane Delahunt, Peter Dooley, Oisín Dowling, Jordan Duggan, Leva Fifita, Dave Heffernan, Shamus Hurley-Langton, Sam Illo, Seán Masterson, Oisín McCormack, Josh Murphy, Darragh Murray, Niall Murray, Conor Oliver, Cian Prendergast, Gavin Thornbury, Dylan Tierney-Martin. Backs (20 ), Bundee Aki, Caolin Blade, Shayne Bolton, Adam Byrne, Jack Carty, Tom Daly, Tom Farrell, Conor Fitzgerald, Cathal Forde, Mack Hansen. David Hawkshaw, Shane Jennings, Diarmuid Kilgallen, Kieran Marmion, Oran McNulty, Tiernan O’Halloran, John Porch, Byron Ralston, Colm Reilly, Alex Wootton.