On a Saturday afternoon last month, the Waitakere City men's premier rugby team were given the beating of their playing careers by Grammar Tec.
The final score after 80 minutes at Orakei Domain was 122-0. Tears ran down faces as their head coach Laeareti Viliamu sat them down in the centre of the pitch afterwards.
What can you say to ease the pain of such a loss?
Viliamu and his assistants went for the truth.
It's a young team but their commitment to training wasn't good enough. There were too many excuses and absences from Tuesday night trainings and while the previous week's training had gone okay and there was nothing in the warm-up to foreshadow the thrashing ahead, Grammar Tec cruelly exposed their shortcomings.
"They scored in the first 40 or 50 seconds," Viliamu said. "Some of our leaders, our old heads, couldn't compose themselves. A lot of finger-pointing starting coming out and for a lot of our young guys in their first year of prems, to see that from a leader… they felt down and there was a lot of negativity."
Viliamu, a Waitakere City stalwart, had been there before. He was part of the side in 2014 who had 100 points put on them by Ponsonby and College Rifles on successive Saturdays.
"It happened to me twice and for it to happen as a coach a third time… we sat them down and said that word 'commitment' really affects us. We had a handful of guys committing to training Tuesday and Thursdays. And we had a handful who for some reason have every excuse in the book not to come on Tuesday nights. We tried to remind them that this is a team thing.
"At the same time, we gave them a lot of praise. We played to the 80th minute. When the ref blew the whistle, to be honest, I felt like crying for our boys.
"There were tears. We don't go out there to lose by that much. No one does."
Redemption is what makes the occasional cruelty of sport bearable. And what makes redemption possible is faith and hope. The Waitakere City boys tidied things up and more of them committed to training.
Up to 90 per cent of the team is Samoan and of those players, Viliamu says, more than half are not confident in their use of English. That's one of the reasons why the coach's texts weren't being returned.
"Some of them were too scared to text back so I said 'just text me in Samoan, man, I can read it - you don't have to text me in English'," Viliamu said.
So, the communication improved along with the commitment, although the losses kept piling up, some of them big ones.
But last weekend it all added up to what must have seemed an impossible dream six weeks ago. They got their first win of the season when coming from behind to beat Otahuhu away at Sturges Park.
Once again, they were down on the scoreboard in the first minute – a theme this season – but despite being behind 5-7 at halftime, they hung in there to get a very sweet 13-10 victory.
"It was a relief," Viliamu says. "There was no jumping up and down or anything like that, although there may have been in the changing room after. It was good to get that off our backs. It was good to see all the boys come in week in and week out, still training after a 90-nil defeat or whatever… but they're still keen to learn. It was good to see those guys smiling and happy.
"We blew a lot of tries. The boys couldn't believe the gaps that opened up and they had that 'white-line fever'. Man, everyone wanted to score – just that last pass or last catch went wrong."
It took faith to get the result and it also took a cameo from Viliamu himself. A former outside back who moved to the loose forwards after a knee injury, Viliamu played more than 100 games for Waitakere City, and filled in on the wing against Otahuhu.
On Saturday, Waitakere City host Manukau, a side who also only have one victory this season, at Trusts Stadium.
The possibility of another win is tantalisingly close. No matter the result, it will be a special occasion for one man in particular: loose forward Malu Fuimaono, a 39-year-old about to play his 200th match for Waitakere City.
That he will do so alongside his teenage son Josh, a loose forward on the reserves bench, and brother Gafatasi, who will start at blindside flanker, will likely make it all the more unique.
Fuimaono, a member of the 2005 side which made the Gallaher Shield final against Ponsonby, clocked up more than 150 games after 11 seasons at Waitakere City before a yearning for a change took him to Massey, Suburbs and then Waitemata. That's a lot of kilometres on the clock and he isn't finished yet.
He returned in 2019. Viliamu said: "He decided to come back and he told me straight up that he only has a few more years left and he wants to give it all back to Waitakere."
Waitakere City v Manukau Rovers2.45pm, Trusts Stadium, Waitakere
Alexander Ulugia, Ben Pulupaki, Joshua Lua, Peti Tui (c), Salamo Laula, Gafatasi Fuimaono, Malu Talauega, Malu Fuimaono, Kyle Nu'uali'itia, Sam Aolele, Ioasa Fa'amumu, Leafi Fiu, Lemafo'e Vui, Tuamasaga Seloti, Iosefo Folaga-Tomasi.
Hallam Bailey, Amanaki Tonga, Teofilo Paiena, Tekele Soakimi, Josh Fuimaono, Paul Toomata, Luke Beveridge, Laeareti Viliamu.
Vine Fesolai, Ronnie Matapula, Soane Latu, Alan Langoia, Tama Alele, Gabriel Pulu, Joel Taime, Tupou Tonga, Leaaekona Tovi, Lofia Finefeuiaki, John Pelesasa, Samuela Ofanoa, Mordecai Pulu, Sam Hafoka, Stanley Paulo Morris-Tialavea.
Tana Sio, Fauula Galo, Eukharis Simanu, Siosifa Pikokivaka,
Toma Tia, Eddie Seumanu, Penitusi Hafoka, John Lea.