It was January 16 when Tim Sampson's full squad finally came together.
But the Western Force's journey to a maiden finals appearance started long before that summer day in Perth three and a half months ago.
"It goes back to 2006, when the Western Force first entered Super Rugby," Force coach Sampson said.
To say "there has been some ups and downs" since then would be an understatement. The club was unceremoniously axed before returning to Super Rugby AU last year.
The Force have proven their worth to the code. Now they have a chance to take their biggest scalp as they prepare to face the ACT Brumbies in an elimination final at Canberra Stadium on Saturday.
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"Look, it's not a word I use too often, I think it gets thrown around a fair bit, that 'proud' word," Sampson said.
"But certainly, this particular squad we've got this year came together pretty late.
"Mid January it was, on January 16 we had a full squad with a four-week lead-in to our first game. We just kicked on week to week which is great.
"It's special. We touched on it throughout the week last week leading into that game, who we were playing for and representing.
"We touched on that, and that's important. You've got to acknowledge and remember those who go before you and represent the club, and shed a lot for the club."
While Saturday marks the club's first finals appearance, the Force are certainly not short on big game experience. Think All Blacks Richard Kahui and Jeremy Thrush, Argentinian internationals Tomas Cubelli and Santiago Medrano, and Wallabies Kyle Godwin, Tom Robertson, Sitaleki Timani and Greg Holmes.
Finals football isn't the biggest challenge. Beating the Brumbies at home is.
"We've had a lot of guys who have played in World Cups and have international experience. Coming here and beating a quality team on their home deck is the challenge," Sampson said.
"It's the fourth time we've played them including the trial game this year. You've got to be on your game."
SUPER RUGBY AU QUALIFYING FINAL
Saturday: ACT Brumbies v Western Force at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm. Tickets from Ticketek. Broadcast: Live on Gem and Stan Sport.
ACT Brumbies squad: 1. James Slipper, 2. Folau Fainga'a, 3. Allan Alaalatoa (c), 4. Darcy Swain, 5. Cadeyrn Neville, 6. Rob Valetini, 7. Rory Scott, 8. Pete Samu, 9. Nic White, 10. Noah Lolesio, 11. Tom Wright, 12. Irae Simone, 13. Len Ikitau, 14. Andy Muirhead, 15. Tom Banks. Replacements: 16. Lachlan Lonergan, 17. Scott Sio, 18. Tom Ross, 19. Nick Frost, 20. Luke Reimer, 21. Ryan Lonergan, 22. Reesjan Pasitoa, 23. Mack Hansen.
Western Force squad: 1. Tom Robertson, 2. Feleti Kaitu'u, 3. Santiago Medrano, 4. Jeremy Thrush, 5. Sitaleki Timani, 6. Fergus Lee-Warner, 7. Kane Koteka, 8. Brynard Stander, 9. Tomas Cubelli, 10. Domingo Miotto, 11. Jorda Olowofela, 12. Kyle Godwin (c), 13. Richard Kahui, 14. Toni Pulu, 15. Jake Strachan. Replacements: 16. Andrew Ready, 17. Angus Wagner, 18. Greg Holmes, 19. Ryan McCauley, 20. Tim Anstee, 21. Ian Prior, 22. Henry Taefu, 23. Jack McGregor.
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