BRISBANE - The Kiwis went into Friday night's Anzac test with the game theme of overcoming Mt Everest - but it proved a mountain too high for a side wanting to prove they were on top of the world.
"We ran into an avalanche," Kiwis coach Brian McClennan said, trying to find a funny side to his team's heavy 50-12 defeat.
The shell-shocked look in his eyes afterwards told the real story, however.
"We just got outplayed. Australia is the top team in the world right now. We were the best team last year but that's gone."
It was not just a huge defeat for a Kiwis side desperate on gaining respect from big brother across the Tasman but it was also something of a defeat for international rugby league.
Some uninformed observers might even agree with outspoken Australian selector Bob Fulton who had labelled New Zealand's win last year as a "fluke".
Rarely in recent times had there been so much hype surrounding a test match, as the verbal jousting set the scene for an epic encounter - something created with New Zealand's 24-0 demolition of Australia in November's Tri-Nations.
It dominated the back pages of newspapers on both sides of the Tasman and more than 44,000 packed into Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium, the biggest crowd for a game in Australia in 43 years and nearly twice the number that turned out at the same venue 12 months previously.
Although Karmichael Hunt's decision to play for his adopted country might have put a few more bums on seats, it was the Kiwis' win last year to earn the title of world's best side that sparked interest in the game again. It remains to be seen when the Tri-Nations kicks off in Australia and New Zealand in October whether the interest is retained in a country that has often put State of Origin on the top rung of the ladder.
"Possibly," was McClennan's honest assessment when asked if Friday night's result was a setback for the international game.
"It's up to us to go back and lick our wounds, come back stronger and make sure we make a big contest of the Tri-Nations."
Although McClennan and Ricky Stuart could agree on little in the week leading into the test, the new Australian coach could be a key figure in maintaining the interest.
He's as passionate about his country as his Kiwi counterpart and hates losing.
"That was a huge test build-up and those type of build-ups are what test matches deserve," he said.
However, the game's powerbrokers, particularly the NRL, need to back plans to lift the profile of international league and help convince the players to put their country before their club.
The international board has locked in a programme until 2012 that features two World Cups, two Tri-Nations, a Lions tour and an All Golds tour.
But it has often been a struggle for New Zealand to field its strongest side. Clubs book players in for off-season surgery, the UK Super League refuses to align its season with the NRL and clubs also cry foul when proposals are tabled which will help improve New Zealand rugby league, such as a State of Origin-type series.
With patriotic youngsters like Benji Marshall and Sonny Bill Williams, however, following the lead set by Kiwis skipper Ruben Wiki, the game certainly has the next generation of stars to maintain the interest.
"We are looking pretty good for the future," a typically confident Marshall said. "We're a young team, so look out for the future."
He might already be thinking of another assault on Everest. It took a Kiwi to scale it first in 1953 and there's no reason why a Kiwi can't do it again.