Force flyhalf Jono Lance says the 2017 Force side has sprinklings of the 2011 Reds Super Rugby championship side, after a galvanising season.
Lance began his Super Rugby career at the Reds, playing in Queensland from cellar-dwelling days to a 2011 championship and said this current Force team had a similar feeling about it.
“I was at the Reds in troubled times and to build up with the Reds during those times was really exciting,” he said.
“I think something similar is happening here.”
Still on Saturday night it was unclear whether the Force would have the chance to see that journey through, but the sense of enjoyment they found in Perth on Saturday showed a sense of emotional release.
“It’s been easily the hardest year of my life in terms of all the speculation and all that but I think that’s really galvanised the playing group.
“That’s why tonight was really special, to see guys with smiles on their faces finally during a game of rugby, that’s what helped us play really well.”
Lance said the club’s honest approach to the situation had helped ease the stress, with players encouraged to be honest about their 2018 contract considerations.
“The best thing is we’ve spoken about it, we haven’t shied away from everything that’s been going on in the background,” he said.
“I think if we did that it could’ve manifested into something bad because a lot of behind the scenes chat would’ve resulted in a lot of behind the scenes behaviour.”
Lance recently re-signed for 2018, despite the ongoing questions, a development that has eased his mind somewhat.
“I’ve been blessed, I’m in a good position where I was wanted and I do love it here, I enjoy it here,” he said.
“That’s helped me but there’s guys who don’t have that, there’s guys starting their careers, young guys from Perth playing for the Force and that’s been their dream. “
Fullback Dane Haylett-Petty said the signs of improvement showed clearly in their final round win over the Waratahs, putting them on equal wins with the only Australian finalists, the Brumbies.
“It may have been harder or easier if we knew an outcome but I suppose we’ve done all we can -we’ve spoken about it during the year,” he said.
“The only thing we can really control is what happens on the field and we’ve definitely finished off well and done what we can do.
“The off-field can take care of itself.”
Hatylett-Petty said the Force had lived to rue a slow start to their season, but their matches with the Waratahs showed how far they had come.
“We felt like we could definitely be pushing the Brumbies to play finals,” he said.
“It’s a little bit disappointing in that sense but we wanted to end off the season in style because I suppose to show people the progress we made.”