Australian rugby needs to find plenty of reasons to get excited about 2018, but ACT Brumbies fans need just two: David Pocock and Christian Lealiifano.
The impending return of the star duo will give the Brumbies an immediate boost as they look to continue their Australian conference dominance.
But there's also the lingering New Zealand curse, with new coach Dan McKellar declaring the Super Rugby club won't be burdened by losses of the past.
McKellar will replace Stephen Larkham in the head coaching job and they both dissected the things that must improve and the reasons to get excited about next year.
1. TIME TO BREAK THE CURSE
Australian teams have lost 32 games in a row against New Zealand opponents and the Brumbies haven't beaten a Kiwi team since round one of the 2016 season.
It's a statistic that shows how far Australian rugby has fallen in the past two years, and the on-field trans-Tasman struggles were compounded by an internal war that led to the demise of the Western Force.
The Brumbies put a major focus on trying to topple New Zealand teams this year and went close in games against the Canterbury Crusaders (four points), the Otago Highlanders (five points) and the Auckland Blues (six points).
"I'm not going to sit around and talk about beating New Zealand teams, first we have to beat the Sunwolves in round one," McKellar said.
"The results will be a by-product of the processes we put in place. We're certainly not daunted by the New Zealand teams. You just have to take your opportunities."
Can the Brumbies beat a New Zealand side in 2018? Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong
The Wallabies beat the All Blacks in a Bledisloe Cup dead rubber, but will the confidence gained from that win transfer to Super Rugby?
2. WIN THE CLOSE GAMES
The Brumbies did enough to win the Australian conference and secure a finals berth, but their overall record was hardly spectacular in 2017.
They won six of their 15 games and were the lowest ranked side in the play-offs, but hosted a home final because of the Super Rugby ladder structure.
The good news was the Brumbies were in almost every game they played. They lost seven games by seven points or less, including three of those against New Zealand teams.
"You can't lose that many games by that sort of margin and it just be a coincidence," McKellar said.
"There was a pattern. We lost a lot of experience leading into last season and I think this group of players will be better for the experiences they had this year."
The Brumbies lost more than 800 games of experience at the end of 2016 and started last season with a young halfback in Joe Powell, a first-year flyhalf in Wharenui Hawera and rookie captain in Sam Carter.
McKellar is confident the lessons learned this year will help the group improve next season.
"The Brumbies don't have rebuilding years, we're always in it to win the competition. But it was a real learning year for a lot of players and hopefully we see the benefits of that in 2018 and beyond."
3. CAN THE BRUMBIES SCORE MORE TRIES?
The key to beating New Zealand sides and re-igniting Australian rugby is simple: score tries. Of course, that's easier said than done.
But if the Brumbies want to lure fans back to Canberra Stadium and be a real threat, they've got to break the try-scoring shackles.
"We won't drop away from the areas the Brumbies have been known for the last few years, but what we've been trying to do has improve our attack," McKellar said.
"I've got my own ideas and I've said from day one we'll attack differently. It's certainly been a big area of focus for us and I think we can make some big steps forward.
"We want to play a game that is high speed, high paced and up tempo, we want to be threatening. To do that we have to train that way."
Outgoing Brumbies mentor Larkham added: "[The Brumbies] need to continue their attack work and get the boys a little more confident playing running rugby.
"It's still a work in progress. It's more of the unstructured stuff ... the ability to capitalise on those situations where the defence isn't set. I know they're working on it, trying to ignite a bit of excitement."
4. THE DOUBLE COMEBACK
Christian Lealiifano with his partner Luga and son Jeremih. Photo: Rohan Thomson
The sight of Christian Lealiifano back on the field was one of the most heart-warming moments of the year and he looms as a trump card when he makes his full-time return in 2018.
Add the return of David Pocock after a 12-month sabbatical from Australian rugby and the Brumbies will be a different beast next year.
The Brumbies and Lealiifano made a strategic decision for the playmaker to spend five months with Irish club Ulster before returning to Super Rugby training in January.
It could prove a masterstroke for the Brumbies' title aspirations after what was a draining year for the inspirational leader.
Lealiifano was diagnosed with leukaemia in August last year and was told he may never play rugby again. But he went into remission in February and made his comeback in the Brumbies' final against the Highlanders in July.
"He's just getting used to his new body again," Larkham said.
"Every week he's starting to feel better and better, and he's really enjoying his rugby which was one of the reasons for going over there.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing him come back and how he will gel with the side, he's a cool, calm head for the Brumbies."
Sabbatical: David Pocock speaks to South African school children in Khokhovela. Photo: Samuel Cox
Pocock stepped away from Australian rugby this year to take a break and refresh after a decade at the top.
The 29-year-old spent six months in Africa pursuing his wildlife conservation and training in makeshift gyms. He returned to rugby in Japan and will restart Brumbies duties in January.
"In his position, he's one of the best in the world and if not the best in the world," McKellar said.
"From what I've seen in Japan, he's been outstanding. He's a guy who has played at the highest level ... you can never underestimate that experience."
5. RE-JIGGED SUPER RUGBY
Australian rugby was its own worst enemy off the field this year and the debacle of axing a team frustrated fans, but the confusing Super Rugby format certainly didn't help.
Organisers have changed the competition, cutting two teams from South Africa (the Cheetahs and the Kings) and one from Australia (the Force).
It streamlines the format to 15 teams instead of 18 and has the added advantage of more Australian derbies. Australian fans want to see Australian rivalries after the Brumbies played the NSW Waratahs just once this year.
6. GENUINE AUSTRALIAN COMPETITION
???The decision to cut the Force divided Australian rugby, but it could be the trigger for greater competition in the conference.
The bulk of Force players have joined the Melbourne Rebels, who won just one game this year. Other Force stars have been spread to the Brumbies, the Waratahs and the Reds.
Less Australian contracts means more competition for spots and talent won't be spread thing across five franchises.
The Brumbies will be hoping some of their young guns step up. Folau Faingaa and Tom Cusack were stand outs in the National Rugby Championship, while Powell and Hawera have plenty of experience together.
Season summary: 4th on overall ladder (Australian champions) - Played 16, won 6, lost 10.
Round one: lost to Crusaders 17-13 in Christchurch.
Round two: lost to Sharks 27-22 in Canberra.
Round three: beat Force 25-17 in Canberra.
Round four: beat Waratahs 28-12 in Sydney.
Round five: lost to Highlanders 18-13 in Canberra.
Round six: bye
Round seven: beat Reds 43-10 in Canberra.
Round eight: lost to Rebels 19-17 in Melbourne.
Round nine: lost to Hurricanes 56-21 in Napier.
Round 10: lost to Blues 18-12 in Canberra.
Round 11: bye
Round 12: lost to Lions 13-6 in Canberra.
Round 13: beat Kings 19-10 in Port Elizabeth.
Round 14: beat Jaguares 39-15 in Buenos Aires.
Round 15: beat Rebels 32-3 in Canberra.
Round 16: lost to Reds 16-15 in Brisbane.
Round 17: lost to Chiefs 28-10 in Hamilton.
Quarter-final: lost to Hurricanes 35-16 in Canberra.
Departing: Scott Fardy, Tom Staniforth, Tomas Cubelli, Saia Faingaa, Anthony Faingaa, Jarrad Butler, Chris Alcock, Aidan Toua, Jordan Smiler, Nick Jooste, Nigel Ah Wong.
Incoming: Matt Lucas, Folau Faingaa, David Pocock, Richie Arnold, Chance Peni, Isi Naisarani, Mees Erasmus, Mack Hansen, Lachie McCaffrey, Andy Muirhead, Darcy Swain, James Verity-Amm.
Round 1: Bye
Round 2: Japan Sunwolves v Brumbies in Tokyo, 3.15pm on February 24.
Round 3: Queensland Reds v Brumbies at Suncorp Stadium, 8pm on March 2
Round 4: Melbourne Rebels v Brumbies at AAMI Park, 7.45pm on March 9
Round 5: Brumbies v Durban Sharks at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm on March 17
Round 6: Bye
Round 7: Brumbies v NSW Waratahs at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm on March 31
Round 8: Brumbies v Queensland Reds at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm on April 7
Round 9: Otago Highlanders v Brumbies in New Zealand, 5.35pm on April 14
Round 10: Brumbies v Argentina Jaguares at Canberra Stadium, 4.05pm on April 22
Round 11: Brumbies v Canterbury Crusaders at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm on April 28
Round 12: Bye
Round 13: Brumbies v Melbourne Rebels at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm on May 12
Round 14: Johannesburg Lions v Brumbies at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, 1.15am on May 20
Round 15: Pretoria Bulls v Brumbies at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, 11.05pm on May 26
Round 16: Brumbies v Japan Sunwolves at Canberra Stadium, 4.05pm on June 3
Round 17: Brumbies v Wellington Hurricanes at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm on June 30
Round 18: Waikato Chiefs v Brumbies in New Zealand, 3.15pm on July 7
Round 19: NSW Waratahs v Brumbies at Allianz Stadium, 7.45pm on July 14