Waikato have handed an NPC contract to Zac Guildford, marking a return to first class rugby for the former All Blacks winger.
The 28-year-old has impressed at both club and Sevens level for the province, and said it was a natural progression he was delighted to accept.
"It's pretty exciting, to be able to have the opportunity to return to play at a high level. I'm extremely grateful for it," Guildford told Newshub.
"I guess it's the plan since I got here in November. I've been working pretty hard behind the scenes, through the Sevens campaign and playing club rugby with Hamilton Old Boys.
"It's been the plan for the last six months so there was no need to change it or sign with anyone else"
The winger, who has ensured some well publicised off-field issues, hasn't played at this level since an abbreviated campaign with the Waratahs last year, and he hasn't given up hope of a return to Super Rugby.
"I'd love to play a game at Super level.
"I can't look too far ahead, because that's probably what I was guilty of doing in the past and contracts were handed to me and I took them for granted, so I've just got to keep working hard and hopefully through good performances and good work off the field, that'll come".
The 11-Test international insists he's a new man since his return from Australia, now in a more settled headspace with his alcohol-related demons consigned to the past.
"I've been working pretty hard since I came back from across the Tasman last year on and off the field, I haven't been paid to play the game for a long time, I've just been doing it because I love the game.
"There's always challenges in life and those won't stop presenting themselves, but I think I've got better ways of dealing with them these days".
Waikato head coach Sean Botherway says Guildford's has earned his call-up and they're excited to bring his talents on board.
"Zac has shown a strong desire to get back into professional rugby. This is another positive step toward that goal," he said.