True, it's still only pre-season time but early indications are Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby side head coach Craig Philpott has learned from some of his 2012 faux pas.
Philpott made no promises of ITM Cup Championship semifinal finishes or Ranfurly Shield victories at yesterday's 2013 season launch for the Magpies in Napier, as there were 12 months ago. It's obvious he and his assistant, Danny Lee, are adopting a more conservative "one game at a time" approach this season.
However, there were signs that indicated Philpott and Lee were on track for a semifinal finish and possible Ranfurly Shield glory should a challenge arise. The first indication was a short summary of the Magpies' pre-season camp in Taupo last week.
The squad didn't have a camp last year and the lack of cohesion during the early stages of the Cup as well as lack of familiarity between players and the coaching staff reflected that.
"Last year it was tough, first season back up in the premiership. No excuses, though ... it was poor," Philpott said.
He pointed out this year there was a big emphasis on building the depth within the squad with Hawke's Bay-based players not involved with Super Rugby, all of whom had trained "bloody hard".
"We're thrilled with how many of them have stepped up and earned the jersey ... the likes of Mikey Vuicakau, Jesse MacDonald and Tony Lamborn."
He outlined three key slogans the Magpies had adopted this season: "No Egos, Team Before Self and Hand Up Not Out."
Also several key words. Among them were family, enjoyment, attitude and responsibility.
"We've got players with the right attitude. They're not just good players, they are good people. Good buggers make good players and they are eager to wear the black and white jersey," Philpott added.
Hawke's Bay Rugby Football Union chief executive Mike Bishop was equally as excited as Philpott about the new professionals within the squad.
Bishop mentioned the day he contracted midfield back Bronson Neera, Lamborn and Vuicakau.
"I told all three of them to take the contracts away and discuss them with somebody close to them, but they were so excited about their first professional contracts they signed them there and then. Mark Abbott was almost as quick and Regis Lespinas, our Frenchman who has played 11 years as a professional in France, can't wait to get a taste of what he regards as the toughest provincial competition in the world."
Magpies manager and stats whiz Neil Weber pointed out the 34-player squad boasted 512 first-class caps for the Magpies, 58 fewer than last year's squad. Fifteen players in the squad have yet to play first-class rugby for the Bay, 12 of them are products of Hawke's Bay high schools and 15 are products of the Super 8 Secondary Schools competition.
The Magpies play Auckland at McLean Park today in their final pre-season match before beginning their campaign against Manawatu at the same venue next Saturday.
Hooker MacDonald and lock Tom Parsons missed the cut for today's playing 24, while midfielders Andrew Horrell and Adam Bradey and prop Adrian Barone were unavailable with injuries.
Flanker Tony Lamborn was also unavailable because of an out-of-town wedding.
Fullback Israel Dagg and prop Ben Franks are on All Blacks duty.
The 300 guests at yesterday's McLean Park-hosted launch had the opportunity to watch the Captain's Run, the side's final training session for today's game.
Expect Te Aute College product Piri Weepu to make a statement in his first outing since being axed from the ABs. His clash with long-time rival, fellow former All Black and new Magpie Alby Mathewson, has the potential to be a game highlight.
Teams for the 1pm game at McLean Park:
Hawke's Bay: Gillies Kaka, Penikolo Latu, Richard Buckman, Bronson Neera, Mikey Vuicakau, Ihaia West, Alby Mathewson, Mark Atkins, Karl Lowe, Mike Coman (captain), Mark Abbott, Michael Allardice, Jody Allen, Ged Robinson, Brendon Edmonds.
Substitutes, forwards: Ash Dixon, Max Lahiff, Willie Ioane, Johan Schoonbee, Trent Boswell-Wakefield, Brendon O'Connor. Backs: Chris Eaton, Regis Lespinas, Trinity Spooner-Neera, Telusa Veainu, Zac Guildford.
Auckland: Lolagi Visinia, George Moala, Malakai Fekitoa, Hadleigh Parkes (captain), Saleaula Silipa, Simon Hickey, Piri Weepu, So'otala Fa'aso'o, Sean Polwart, Joe Edwards, Patrick Tuipulotu, Liaki Moli, Angus Ta'avao, Tom McCartney, Sam Prattley.
Substitutes: Nathan Vella, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Jack Whetton, Sean Brookman, Junior Poluleuligaga, Vince Aso, Malani Nanai, Luke Braid, Wayne Ngaluafe.
For a second consecutive season, yours truly was spot on with his predicted Magpies line-up published yesterday' in HB Today. More clues were there this season, with the wider extended squad trainings and also with the manner in which players were released for last weekend's Maddison Trophy semifinals.