Kiwi rugby league legend Graham Lowe predicts the NZ Warriors' new ownership will be the key to an improved showing in this year's NRL, starting in March.
The former NZ national coach, who guided Manly Sea Eagles to consecutive Grand Finals in 1990 and 1991, told The AM Show that the Auckland-based club will begin the new season believing it can finally win the premiership.
Lowe doesn't think they will take the spoils, but sees that self-belief as an important step up for an outfit that returned to the playoffs last season, after a seven-year absence.
"I'd like to think they'll finish well, but the great advantage the Warriors have this year is the mentality that Autex brings," he told The AM Show.
"They're the third owners of the club and their expectations are very high. I think that strong governance influence will have a ripple effect through the club - you'd like to think that will be a very motivating factor."
Autex has been one of New Zealand rugby league's most loyal sponsors over the years, but took that support one step further, when it joined with Auckland Rugby League and the Carlaw Heritage Trust to buy the club off millionaire owner Eric Watson.
"I can't see them winning it this year, but at least they'll aim to win it. In the past, I think they've been guilty of trying to make the top eight - I think this year, they'll and win it, as they should.
"That's the mentality that Autex and Auckland Rugby League will bring along."
In addition to his coaching credentials with the Kiwis, Manly and the Queensland State of Origin side, Lowe, 72, has been chief executive at Manly and was part-owner of the Warriors during the late 1990s.
While disappointed with the departure of star half Shaun Johnson to Cronulla, Lowe was excited by the prospect of uncovering a successor from within the club's junior ranks.
"It was a terrible thing to lose Shaun, but in saying that, I really like seeing the young guys wanting to do it," he said.
"The step up and sheer physicality of what these young guys will face for 80 minutes is hard to explain. There will be players there with the talent and the skills, but the mental toughness required and coping with the week-in, week-out physicality, that will be tough.
"If I was coaching, that for me would be absolutely exciting."
The Warriors will also miss veteran second-rower Simon Mannering, who retired at the end of last season, after more than 300 games with the club.
"I think any team would miss Mannering, because he's one of the most unsung heroes I've ever seen in New Zealand sport," said Lowe.
"He's a lovely fellow. I always got the impression he didn't even realise he was there doing it - he was such a humble man.
"They will miss him for sure, but others do come along."