Wellington Phoenix have made the A-League finals three years running but coach Ricki Herbert rates this season's achievement as the most satisfying of the lot.
In 2009-10 the Phoenix bowed out to Sydney FC in the preliminary final while last season they were eliminated by Adelaide United in the opening round of the playoffs.
This season's crop have the chance to emulate the 09-10 team if they can beat the Glory in Saturday's minor semifinal in Perth but regardless of the result Herbert is a proud man.
Well documented off-season difficulties meant the Phoenix were not tipped to be still standing come April.
"I still think that this side has probably done the best job we've had at the club, given a whole parameter of things," said Herbert, when asked to compare this season's team to the last two.
"And that's kind of whether we win or lose on Saturday. It's been a great group and I just sense the passion in the eyes. I think we're in a good space and the players are in a good frame, as you would expect. If everyone applies themselves then I think we are going to be a hard side to beat."
The Phoenix fly to Perth this afternoon after completing their second day's training at a sunny Sydney Grammar School.
The first XI spent time working on their shape and set-pieces under Herbert's watch while reserves Tony Warner, Alex Smith, Nick Ward and Mirjan Pavlovic worked separately with strength and conditioning coach Lee Taylor.
Ben Sigmund, who only played a bit-part at yesterday's training, is over his groin niggle and trained freely.
All three Phoenix-Perth games this season have ended 1-0 with the Glory winning twice and the Phoenix once.
Possession in central midfield will be fiercely contested with Tim Brown, Vince Lia, Jacob Burns and Steve McGarry no shrinking violets.
If Brown and Lia can emerge victorious from that battle then Shane Smeltz' goal-scoring spree may come to a screeching halt.
"We've got to stop the service into him, it's quite simple really," Herbert said.
"It's always a great match-up in there, there's some very good, competitive players. We've managed to do it in the past and we'll need to do it again on Saturday. Wide with [Travis] Dodd and Andrezinho, they're good players that are playing well at the moment too"
If Perth get the ball wide then they can be a problem, he said.
"I think we also just need to be a little bit patient, a lot of the goals that they've scored recently have come off the counter. They break quickly and they can hurt you so we just need to be careful. We've been one of those victims in the past as well."
- © Fairfax NZ News
How will the Phoenix go in 2013-14?Related story: Wellington Phoenix off-season scorecard