Veteran second row Nathan Sharpe's retirement and the departure of star openside David Pocock to the Brumbies were huge blows to the Perth-based franchise, while their failure to capture the signature of Wallaby scrum-half Will Genia despite initial reports that he had agreed a big-money move to the Force proved another high-profile disappointment.
But those blows have brought the Force closer together according the 14-times capped front rower who reckons fortunes will change in his final campaign before moving to Northampton next season.
"Disappointing, that's the only word I can put to last season. But we learnt a lot about ourselves, the team and our character and we took what positives we could and we'll be much more prepared for this season," Ma'afu told Rugby News as the Force look to improve on their 14th-place finish.
"There's going to be distractions from time to time and it can't always be a straight line. It's something you can't really avoid in the pro set-up.
"But we're better for it now, guys have moved on, new guys have come in and everything's for the good of the club."
The Force have recruited 12 new players ahead of their season opener at the Rebels on Friday night but none have been of the stature of Sharpe or Pocock.
Bringing former Wallaby lock Hugh McMeniman back from his stint in Japan and securing the services of All Black capped scrum-half Alby Matthewson were arguably the biggest boosts but Ma'afu says it's the way that the new and the old have bonded together that has been the standout success in pre season.
"The new guys have all been very impressive," added Ma'afu.
"They're working hard and they bring a lot to the table, but when you've got the blue jersey on it's about who can get the job done on the day.
"We've done a good job of gelling, so everyone is going in one direction and we've all bought into it. It's a good bunch of blokes.
"There's a lot of good things we're putting in place."
The Force host the Lions at Patersons Stadium on Wednesday, June 5 in the tourist's first game on Australian soil since 2001 and Ma'afu would love to be involved then and again when the Wallabies take on the mantle in the three-match series.
"Getting back into the Wallabies side is definitely in my sights and in the sights of every other player in Australia I guess, but I've just gotta take it week by week and do my job.
"I'd love to be there in June when they hit our shores."