For three frustrating years One New Zealand Warriors owner Mark Robinson could do nothing as the club he’d bought was forced to operate away from home.
Only four fleeting visits for games at Mount Smart Stadium last year broke the period in exile.
Until the homecoming match against Wests Tigers on July 3 last year, Robinson hadn’t even seen the team play at home since buying the club in September 2019.
Which is why starting all over again in 2023 – the club’s 29th season in existence – means that much more. It’s the rebirth or reset of a club which is at last back where it should be. Once again it has its heart and soul.
The ever-passionate Robinson’s driving dream for the One New Zealand Warriors is undiminished.
"All I want from everyone in this club is to make New Zealand proud,” he said.
“I don't care what it costs, I'm not going to stop until we have NRL trophies in our cabinet.
"This year people think we're going to finish 15th but I like being the underdog. If that's what they think, then that's what they think. That's just going to make our club better."
One New Zealand Warriors CEO Cameron George is in the best place to assess how driven Robinson is for the club to succeed.
"He leads with a sense of ambition, aggressive ambition, to do something that's never been done before for New Zealand,” he said.
“On day one when the pandemic hit not only was he trying to balance a global business in Autex, he knocked on the door here (at the club) and said: ‘I'm here to lead you as well. There's no way in my lifetime that the Warriors won't be in the National Rugby League competition.'
"Without a shadow of a doubt if it wasn't for Mark Robinson being the owner of this rugby league club we wouldn't be where we are today."
Now Robinson’s counting down the days to season 2023, even more so for the first home game of the year at Mount Smart Stadium when the One New Zealand Warriors host the Bulldogs on March 26.
"When I turn up to the ground I'm really nervous, I don't talk much and I'm always on edge from the start until the finish,” he said.
"It's just overwhelming. I just love to see so many happy people in one place and if the Warriors can put on a show and win a game and everyone leaves happy there's nothing better than that.”