Western Force coach Tim Sampson is ignoring the naysayers as the club attempts to gatecrash the finals for a second straight season.
The Force broke their 15-year finals drought in 2021 by reaching the play-offs of Super Rugby AU.
The Perth-based franchise missed out on a spot in the grand final after being brushed aside 21-9 by the Brumbies in Canberra, but the breakthrough finals appearance has left the side feeling confident of a repeat in 2022.
Most fans and betting markets disagree though with the Force widely tipped to finish near the foot of the 12-team table.
The top eight teams will qualify for finals and Sampson is determined to lead his team there.
“I don’t know how they (betting markets) come up with that to be honest. That doesn’t faze us one bit,” Sampson said ahead of Sunday’s season-opener against the Brumbies in Canberra.
“Last year’s squad created their own little piece of history there and it was a great achievement from the club, and we move on to bigger and better things this year.
“We want to play finals rugby again and we know that there’s a lot of hard work and effort that goes into making finals.”
The Force have lost a wealth of experience from last season with Irish legend Rob Kearney, Tevita Kuridrani, Kieran Longbottom, Tomas Cubelli and Marcel Brache among the departures.
The arrival of Wallaby Izack Rodda was a major coup while Sampson also recruited former Brumbies quartet Issak Fines, Bayley Kuenzle, Reesjan Pasitoa and Reece Tapine.
Fines will start on the bench against the Brumbies after Ian Prior was handed the starting scrumhalf role, but Sampson is expecting big things of the 26-year-old.
“He’s been ready to go for a couple of years,” Sampson said.
“Now is his time. I’m expecting a fantastic year from Finesy.
“I genuinely think he can be pushing for claims of higher honours.”