Take a browse through the list of Auckland Rugby League trophy winners over the past two decades and it’s not hard to see why Mt Albert have grown accustomed to success.
With a total of 16 Fox Memorial Premiership’s to their name, the Lions carry a proud history with them onto the field every single season.
And it’s that which makes their three-year drought in the Fox all the more painful, having been beaten each time by Pt Chevalier on the day that matters most.
“Three years of it…it sucks,” Mt Albert utility back Dillon Rota told kiwileaguecentral.com
“It’s devastating, but we try and come back each year and change something.”
In 2016 the players aren’t the only ones making efforts to change things. At the end of last year the club reviewed their situation and parted ways with long-time coach Steve Buckingham, in favour of former Auckland Vulcans mentor, and more recently Warriors reserve grade assistant, Willie Swann.
New training staff and a glut of new players means it is without doubt the start of a new era for the central Auckland club.
“Mt Albert did an external review – they have lost three in a row in the Fox and I think they were looking for a change,” Swann said.
“It’s a new start. As a coach you don’t want anyone going and if you look at [departing players] Zac Tippins, Tulson Caird and Soape Kavaliku, they have most probably played 200 games for Mt Albert and been part of their finals campaigns for years.
“But the ones who have stayed and the ones I have brought in are ready for the challenge of trying to win it this year.
“From my experiences at the Warriors in terms of training with high performance athletes and the detail that goes into the NRL and NSW Cup, hopefully I can take that and transfer that knowledge to the Mt Albert boys.
“Also just offering a fresh approach and a change, I know the boys have appreciated the different approach, different voice and a difference in training.
“Mt Albert has been a very successful club in the Fox competition, so there is a lot of proud history and heritage that comes from wearing that jersey every week.
“From the players they have produced and the coaches they have produced, there is an air of expectation that Mt Albert, and this year will be no different.”
Rota said while it was hard to see Buckingham depart, he believed the change might be just what is needed for the Lions to wrestle their way back to the top of the Fox.
“I am going to miss Bucky as a coach, but I think it is probably a good thing we are going to have a change around the club,” Rota said.
“Losing three years in a row…we needed to change something.
“We don’t want to be in that situation again so we try and have that mindset of working hard and finally getting the Fox win.
“We want to get that Fox back.”
Mt Albert have made a solid start to the year, drawing against Pt Chevalier and beating Howick, but face a big test on Saturday against Papakura, with the Roope Rooster – which they currently hold – on the line.