For Western Force hooker Heath Tessmann, Friday night is a beginning, and an end, of sorts.
While the opening World Series game is potentially the start of something exciting, it’s also the culmination of a fight the players and fans have fought since the Super Rugby franchise was cut last September.
Tessmann played Super Rugby with the Force for four seasons, before the club’s axing last year, but he always felt that wasn’t the end of the team entirely.
“We always believed we would (return),” he told RUGBY.com.au.
“We weren't sure what the window would've been, like how long it would've taken but we always knew that rugby belonged in WA and if there were enough people willing to make it happen, then it would happen."
Now that day is here, Tessmann is as nervous as he has ever been in his professional career.
“It’s almost like a new first day of school,” he said.
“For me, I don't think I've been this nervous before a game of rugby since my first season playing Super Rugby.
“It's that balance between excitement and nervousness.”
The Queenslander considers himself very much West Australian these days and a renewed community focus from the Force has helped strengthen that connection, particularly in recent months.
Force fans became as much a part of their journey as the players in last year’s rollercoaster, and Tessmann said it was those watching on to whom they felt immeasurably indebted.
“It's something that I didn't really think about until earlier in the week and I actually spoke to the group about it,” he said.
“With me being so nervous, this is something, maybe I underestimated how much it really does mean to me.
“As a playing group, we went through a lot last year, but we really took the whole wider rugby community as part of our group as well, and they were riding with us through all that.
“We feel a really great connection with them, or I do personally, and one of my biggest thing is I know all the guys who have played for the Force before will be looking to go out and fill the crowd with pride this weekend.”
Tessmann said that community connection was something the reformed Force had put at the top of its priority list, with players involved with local clubs on a regular basis as volunteers.
“I think a lot of our teams...we've maybe got that a little bit wrong, talking about the top down trickle effect, where everything professional rugby especially gets is from the grassroots of the game,” he said.
“I've been coaching my Nedlands U13s team, I've been coaching them for four years just about and the enjoyment I get, getting out there, and spending an hour and a half while they run around and really enjoy themselves, it's really kind of humbling and really grounding because it just reminds you why you started playing the game in the first place,” he said.
“It's really refreshing that we can go back and get to do that.
“It's something I think, especially as a player, you lose a little bit of sight of sometimes but I think we're fortunate that with our team over here, it's in the forefront of everyone’s mind and all the guys have really bought into it as well.
“We've got guys who are just turning up to their clubs whenever, helping out with barbeques even when they're not playing, just really buying into everyone.
“It's just as rewarding for everyone involved and it's the kind of stuff happening organically.”
Friday’s will be the first of a series of matches the Force will play in 2018, and Tessmann hopes for one thing when it’s all wrapped up.
“If we can come off the field after each game and we're sitting down having a Pepsi in a few months' time, kind of reflecting on what we've done and we can say we're proud of everything we've done, I think the game will still be in a really good position if not a better position than it is right now and the results will speak for themselves.”
The Force take on the Fiji Warriors on Friday at nib Stadium, kicking off at 8:30pm AEST, replayed on FOX SPORTS at 10pm.