Queensland Reds captain Liam Wright has no problem carrying the extra weight of expectation into the Super Rugby AU season, declaring it's time the rebuilt squad claimed some silverware.
The Reds' progression from whipping boys to title contenders materialised during last season's hastily-arranged domestic competition, when they were unbeaten at home on their way to a tight grand final loss in Canberra to the Brumbies.
Eleven Reds players featured for Dave Rennie's Wallabies in the Super Rugby off-season, five of them earning international debuts.
They've added Melbourne's NRL premiership-winning winger Suliasi Vunivalu to the fold and have exciting fullback Mac Grealy waiting in the wings before the season's February 19 kick-off.
The 12-week campaign will be followed by a six-week trans-Tasman showdown, in which each of Australia's five teams will play every New Zealand side once.
The Brumbies will field a stable squad while the NSW Waratahs have been stripped of experienced pair Michael Hooper and Rob Simmons to overseas deals, while the Melbourne Rebels and Western Force have recruited well and could surprise.
Former Wallabies vice-captain Morgan Turinui, who played for both the Waratahs and Reds, said last season's finals showing was a turning point for Queensland.
"If a couple of moments go their way (in the final) they win that and now they've got a host of players with Wallabies caps and have brought in one of the most exciting blokes in the country in Vunivalu," Turinui told AAP.
"They look significantly stronger and could be a dominant force.
"I'd like to think at least those two sides (the Reds and the Brumbies) can go on to cause headaches in the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition, although the Blues look like Real Madrid this season."
Australian back-rower Wright will lead the Reds for a second season at the tender age of 23.
"Yeah we are (comfortable no longer being the underdog); it shows we've done some good work and we're not shying away from the fact we want to win this year," Wright said in the lead-up to a trial game against the Waratahs on Friday.
"We wanted to win last year too and thought we could, but a couple of things we let slip and want to tidy them up.
"We're not going to kid ourselves, we expect to do a lot better and put in consistent efforts and that's going to help us this year."
Turinui will form part of the commentary team as Super Rugby and domestic rugby moves to the Nine Network and streaming platform Stan Sports this season.
"It was a bloody tough year for rugby last year, but everyone's now excited by what it could be," he said.
"We've been give carte blanche; we've all got forthright opinions, will do our research and be well informed and hopefully we see some good footy played."