Lions rugby coach Warren Gatland laid down the challenge this week, so we've picked it up.

Gatland warned his players to expect negative media stories or "stings" when they embark on the much-anticipated 10-game New Zealand tour in June and July.

As evidence, he reprised the 2016 Clown-gate controversy, which began with Herald cartoonist Rod Emmerson's famous depiction of Aussie coach Michael Cheika.

Gatland said: "It was a bit of a lesson - when you criticise the NZ Herald and say they were a bit over the top...they quickly turned round and drew me as a clown.

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"I was really upset. They could have at least made me a happy clown so that was not really fair."

To show that we're not all sting and no heart, Emmerson went back to the drawing board to produce Gatty the way he likes to be - as a Happy Clown.

What Gatland, a famous Waikato rugby man, already knows is that the Lions are treasured in this part of the world.

Who knows what lies ahead, and Gatland has shown he is ready to use the media and play a few mind games, as he will need to do. But we've started the year off on a friendly foot.

Read more: Chris Rattue: Lions coach Warren Gatland is clowning around