All Blacks and Blues flanker Dalton Papalii prospectively faces a big 2023, but the loss in last year's Super Rugby Pacific final still rankles.
Papalii said he struggled to talk about last year's loss to the Crusaders.
"That was a low point for me. We worked so hard, but we didn't finish and didn't execute. We went on that good winning streak.
"For me, I think you've got to lose one to win one, well, that's what I'm telling myself, but it still hurts. It's a good thing for the Blues boys. We're still a young group, so having that bit of edge and fire still in the belly from last year, the boys are going to explode this year.
"But the main thing is just executing in those key moments. That's what the Crusaders did to us last year. They took away our lineout and we weren't getting any go-forward so learning how to adapt when something isn't going right is going to be key for us."
Papalii said he enjoyed his summer break but was looking forward to playing with the Blues again and building on what they achieved last year.
"We always look, each year, to get better and it's awesome having my old mate Patrick back and learning off him because he's someone who's helped me a lot in my career. That's the idea, you learn off what you did last year and you get better, so, that's going to be my mindset this year."
Fooled 'em!— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) January 24, 2023
Which kick restart was better?#SuperRugbyPacific pic.twitter.com/DQIhn6UKv5
While there was a World Cup on the horizon, Papalii said that was in the future and, for the moment, he was thinking about now.
"That's always been a priority of mine, not thinking too far and stressing about what's coming."
That was hit home from the start as he developed a calf niggle while running earlier in the week and couldn't run as he wanted with the side on Thursday.
It also meant learning the game plan for the side as quickly as possible. He admitted to having struggled with that in the past.
"We've changed a few things here and there, which we do every year, so I've got to brush up on that since I'm not out there with them. I've got to get stuck into the classroom, and I never really liked the classroom."
Papalii was happy to resume the captaincy. He was uncertain how he would do last year in the role but felt it worked out. It was more a case of a label beside his name because he had a good leadership group with Patrick Tuipulotu, Beauden Barrett, Tom Robinson, Kurt Eklund and Rieko Ioane to provide support.
Having Tuipulotu back was enjoyable. They had already talked about how much it meant to him and how it benefited the side, especially the younger players.
During the northern tour, he found he had enjoyed stepping up to international level more enjoyable than previously. Working with the other loose forwards, he felt he enjoyed the process more and felt freer in his play.