An ACT Brumbies team of superstars dubbed the Real Madrid of Super Rugby failed to fire a shot in its bid for a drought-breaking championship.
But coach Stephen Larkham says his squad won't be distracted by pre-season hype, preferring to hose down all the glowing endorsements to narrow the team's focus in the build-up to round one.
The Super Rugby season was launched at Wet n Wild in Sydney on Wednesday, with Brumbies co-captain Christian Lealiifano going head first down a water slide to mark the opening to a year of hope.
The Brumbies hope their results see them rocket skyward towards their first title since 2004 rather than have them splashing around down the bottom.
They boast one of the most talented rosters in the competition that includes 12 Wallabies and Argentinian international Tomas Cubelli, although they lost Test duo Jesse Mogg and Nic White in the off-season.
Six years ago the Brumbies were title favourites with 13 Wallabies stars – including Rocky Elsom, Matt Giteau, Stirling Mortlock and George Smith – and the Real Madrid tag failed to inspire a finals run.
So Larkham knows reputations count for little in a pre-season of expectation and high hopes, putting the players on notice to forge their own future.
"This is different [to the 2010 group], these guys are home grown in the fact they've been in the Brumbies program for four years," Larkham said.
"It's more about the right time for this group. It's a matter of hosing down expectation maybe because of what happened previously. It's irrelevant talking about what might happen.
"The only focus we want to have as a team at the moment is week one and it's a week-to-week proposition. We've had a pretty good focus of doing as much as we can for these guys so they're mentally and physically prepared for the season.
"We've realised over the last couple of years you need a bit of luck to get the end result, irrespective of expectation or anything. We've had the same expectation over the last four years. But it is the last opportunity for this group to achieve something together because some guys are moving on."
Matt Toomua and Stephen Moore have confirmed they will leave Canberra at the end of the season, while David Pocock is weighing up his future and Joseph Tomane is expected to go to France.
The Brumbies begin their season against the Wellington Hurricanes at Canberra Stadium on February 26 before a blockbuster round-two clash against the NSW Waratahs in the capital.
The first five weeks will lay the foundation, with clashes against the Hurricanes and Waratahs to be followed by a three-week stint on the road to Perth, Cape Town and Bloemfontein.
Queensland Reds coach Richard Graham said the Brumbies and Waratahs were the teams to beat in the Australian conference, while Wallabies mentor Michael Cheika predicted a tight contest.
"It's tough … obviously you look at the Waratahs and the Brumbies being up as the leaders based on the last few years," Cheika said.
"But what I've seen from all the teams, the Reds, the Force and the Rebels – I've visited and spoken to the coaches about the philosophy – I think this year is going to be relatively close going.
"The derbies are going to be tough matches and it comes down to how the table looks."
Lealiifano said: "We're just focused on the start of the season and starting well. It hits home that the season is coming up when you're here.
"But you've just got to narrow the focus when you get back home and then start to focus on what we want to do. The goal is to start really well and keep going up from there."