NZ Warriors chief executive Jim Doyle has pointed at his club's smaller losing margins as a sign of progress through another disappointing season.
The Auckland-based club seems to be sliding towards another year outside the playoffs - its sixth straight and third under Doyle's watch.
With five rounds remaining in the regular season, post mortems have already begun on the Warriors' first campaign under coach Stephen Kearney.
But Doyle told Radio Sport's Martin Devlin that the team were still making progress, despite their current 11th standing on the ladder with seven wins/12 losses, six points out of the top eight.
"We've not got as many wins as we wanted to get, because we wanted this year to be the first step in that right direction ... to get into the finals and then build on that for the future," he reflected.
"But there are a lot of positive things taking place and we have to build on them for the next five games, and then build on them for next year and the year after to get the club to that point where they're winning the premiership and can sustain that high performance."
One of his key indicators of progress was competitiveness - the Warriors' worst results have been a pair of 16-point losses to Melbourne Storm and St George Illawarra Dragons.
Last season, they logged five defeats by more than 16 points, including a 42-0 drubbing from the Storm. The previous season, they had six bigger losses, including 36-0 to St the Dragons and back-to-back 34-point setbacks.
In 2014, the year before Doyle arrived at Mt Smart Stadium, there were four comparative blowouts - the worst was a 46-12 defeat by Sydney Roosters.
Their current record will be tested over the next month with nothing left to play for and key injuries depleting the line-up.
But Doyle insisted the most recent results showed his team were staying in contention longer.
"I hate to lose and you want to win every game," he said. "Even though you know you're not going to win every game, it's disappointing when you haven't won.
"But there are different levels of disappointment. If you lose by two points in the last couple of minutes and the whole team has given everything, there's less disappointment than if you lose significantly.
"This is one of the things that Stephen has brought with him with regard to consistency. We're staying in the contest for longer and longer, and even if we're not winning, we're building foundations we can actually win from."
But Doyle lamented the lapses that let those wins slip away and hinted that many of them were mental, not physical.
"We're still having fundamental errors and we're not winning key moments - that's the difference.
"When we played the Cowboys two weeks ago, it was 12-12 in the first half, but in the second half, we crossed the line four times and were held up. [If we win] any one of those key moments, then we're winning.
"For me, one of the fundamental problems at this club is we start the season really poorly. This year, we won three games out of eight, so you get to this time of the year, your confidence is not as high and you have to win to get the two points.
"If you win four-five-six of those eight games, you build confidence, so a big part of what we're working on right now is those first eight games of the season."