But optimism is now coursing through Cardiff Arms Park again. A new synthetic surface will prompt an attacking brand of rugby and the Blues have been boosted by the return to the club of winning British & Irish Lions Sam Warburton, Alex Cuthbert and player of the series Leigh Halfpenny.
Jamie Roberts has crossed the Channel to join Racing Metro but in truth the Wales centre played only a bit part role last season as he struggled with injury, while prop Gethin Jenkins has come the other way from Toulon and he will meet a familiar face at the Arms Park in Rees.
"I'm settling in great, really enjoying it. I'm just ready for the season to get underway now," said Rees.
"It's just a change of scenery and group of players and coaching staff. I worked with Phil [Davies] a couple of years ago with Scarlets and it's all good at the moment.
"I know the majority of the boys. I'm quite comfortable and it's easier when you've got a strong group of players and leaders. It makes my job easier and you can use them as well.
"The front row is definitely looking strong. The likes of Gethin will come back, there's Scott Andrews and we've got some good young boys coming through like Sam Hobbs and Tom Davies.
"These guys have been really good in pre-season games and they'll have an opportunity to play. From a front row's perspective we're looking really strong.
"Jamie was an outstanding player. Unfortunately for him he got a lot of injuries last year so he didn't really play much for the Blues.
"Again there's some good talent coming through in Cory Allen and Owen Williams who had an opportunity last year and took it and produced some good performances.
"Hopefully they'll kick on to a new level and they'll come through and fill the boots of Jamie."
Rees' last Wales appearance came in their defeat to Ireland in March and in winning his 58th cap, he equaled the national record for most appearances for a hooker.
He makes no secret of his desire to make it 59 sooner rather than later - and he believes playing alongside the likes of Halfpenny, Jenkins, Warburton and Cuthbert will only help his cause.
"The biggest thing is the players coming through the regions and it stems from the international team doing well," he added.
"It's great to see so many players going on a Lions tour and featuring in the three Tests.
"They've come back now and we've got a strong group of players, internationals still playing for Wales and hopefully that's the type of player the younger generation want to come out and see playing.
"Hopefully after the success of the last six months in terms of Six Nations win and the Lions series we can get a few more of the younger generation coming to watch and start taking up rugby."