Australia believe they are back on track to pose a serious threat at next year's World Cup despite Saturday's Tri-Nations loss to New Zealand.
Australia pressed New Zealand hard in the second half in Brisbane
The Wallabies' 13-9 defeat was a marked improvement on their 32-12 loss to the All Blacks three weeks ago.
"We regard New Zealand as the best in the world and we know we're not far off," said fly-half Stephen Larkham.
"Moving towards the World Cup, we've got that up our sleeve - if we play to our potential we can beat them."
Australia crashed to eight defeats in nine matches last year but have bounced back this season, beating England and Ireland in June and then notching up a record 49-0 win over South Africa.
And Wallaby coach John Connolly, who took over from Eddie Jones in December, was also optimistic for the future.
"I was pretty proud of the effort. It was a step forward," Connolly said. "We're gutted that we lost the game but I think we showed we're not that far away."