Fourteen months ago, the only thing Wellington were in contention for was relegation from the NPC premiership.
This time around they finished the regular season in equal first and host Auckland in today's second semifinal at Westpac Stadium.
The transformation from rabble to title contenders isn't lost on Jeremy Thrush as he nears the end of his second season as Lions captain.
"It's a pretty good effort compared to the way we were trucking last season. It was a bit of a shambles, but it's been really enjoyable [this year], actually," Thrush said this week.
Under the coaching of Andre Bell, the Lions didn't seem to know if they were Arthur or Martha in 2011.
"Yeah, to be honest there was [confusion]. I felt sometimes we went into a game without a clear idea of how we wanted to play and that's pretty tricky," Thrush said.
His remedy was to put the responsibility for running the team on to his own shoulders.
"And it didn't work that well," he said.
But with Chris Boyd coming in as head coach, to join assistant Richard Watt, structures were put in place to ease a grateful Thrush's burden.
"I learnt a few personal lessons, like making sure I have the right people around me to help lead the way and have a bit more voice," Thrush said.
"I feel I've got a really good understanding and relationship with Watty and Boydy. They're pretty honest with me and I just try and go out and play hard and do my job well.
"If I can do my job all right, then I have the opportunity to put a little bit more pressure on the other boys, or help bring them up to standard."
Thrush can regularly be heard driving the team's standards at training but, by nature, he's someone who prefers to lead by deed.
"It's when everyone stops and everyone's looking at you that I get a bit camera shy and think ‘what am I going to say'?"
Thankfully there's not much to be said to the team ahead of today's semifinal. The players all know they were ordinary in their 43-30 loss to Auckland a month ago and don't need a reminder.
"Mentally they [Auckland] were up for it a bit more than us and I felt that in our warmup. We were a bit slow and slack and we got beaten up a bit in the breakdown.
"We'd either been on par or dominated a little bit and that was the first forward pack that tickled us up a bit."
- The Dominion Post
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