‘This is the just start for us, not the end’
Once wasn’t enough.
No, after becoming the first Wellington team to win a provincial rugby competition since 2000 - by beating Bay of Plenty 59-45 on Friday night - attention quickly turned to the premiership title.
Some might think that’s a bit premature and that the Lions ought to worry about staying up first. But the reality is that head coach Chris Gibbes and the team are far more ambitious than that.
This year’s 60-14 and 42-26 wins over premiership heavyweights Canterbury and Taranaki, in crossover matches, have convinced the Lions they’re a top-tier kind of side, one good enough to contend for silverware straight away. They just needed to win a championship final - in no matter what sort of fashion - first.
‘‘What is pleasing for this group is they are young and they are going to learn from that,’’ Gibbes said of the team’s up and down extra-time win over the Steamers.
‘‘And we will keep learning. This is just the start for us, not the end, and we’ve got one goal achieved and now the next goal is the premiership.’’
‘‘You choose’’ have been the words that characterised Gibbes’ maiden campaign in the capital. You choose your attitude, you choose how hard you’re prepared to work, you choose to succumb to fatigue, you choose whether to feel satisfied.
Gibbes has given the players a framework to operate within and then let them decide how far they’re going to push themselves. That’s why he describes the potential of this group as ‘‘anything they want it to be.’’
From axed All Black Julian Savea, to fringe Super Rugby players such as Ben Lam and Jackson Garden-Bachop, club players like Mateaki Kafatolu, stars on the rise such as Asafo Aumua and Alex Fidow and everyone in between - Gibbes has been to motivate and improve the lot of them.
It’s a situation summed up in the grand final performance of Tawa’s Tolu Fahamokioa. Part of the Wellington team relegated in 2014, the loosehead prop then won promotion with Hawke’s Bay in 2015 and played ‘‘probably the best Mitre 10 Cup game in my whole career’’ against Bay of Plenty.
‘‘I was talking to Leni [hooker Leni Apisai] just before and I was like ‘how good does this feel to get redemption?’ This feels way better than the one in Hawke’s Bay. You don’t know,’’ Fahamokioa said after scoring two tries in Friday’s final.
Wellington head coach Chris Gibbes shared a hug with prop Alex Fidow.