As a former rugby player and farmer, Sunday was always going to be an interesting spectacle for me. We are a rugby-mad, farming nation and the day was dominated by a test match in Paris and farmer protests in 70 centres around our country.
On closer inspection, there are several parallels between the All Blacks test and the Groundswell protest:
1. Both have concluded that the leader has to go! The knives are out for beleaguered AB's coach Ian Foster, after a muddling end to the northern hemisphere tour. Ditto for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern - as some defiant protesters proudly adorned their MAGA (Make Ardern Go Away) caps.
Both were noticeable by their absence on Sunday. Jacinda, in a physical sense, by totally ignoring the protest, and Fozzie, in a cerebral sense, by failing to come up with any bright ideas to combat the French, or the Irish for that matter!
2. The men in charge of implementing the rules were also under the microscope. Strangely, the man All Blacks fans love to loathe, English referee Wayne Barnes, was oddly efficient, even if he, too, was working with some unworkable regulations.
The same cannot be said for the architect of many of the Government's unpopular and unworkable rural policies, Minister for the Environment David Parker. You almost get the impression Jacinda is doing a bit of an Ian Foster with Parker.
Fozzie refused to use Finlay Christie off the bench against Ireland and was most reluctant to inject Damian McKenzie into the game in Paris when Richie Mo'unga went missing in action.
Ardern seems to have similarly benched Parker. He's nowhere to be seen. Damien O'Connor and Stuart Nash are the sacrificial lambs, a last line of defence hurriedly summoned to tackle head-on the Jonah Lomu-like attack from the protesters.
3. Significant Natural Areas (SNAs). Ever since Dave Gallaher (whose memorial trophy was played for in Paris) first laced up boots and led The Originals to Europe in 1905, dominating up front has been a natural area of significance for All Black forward packs. So while farmers are worried about a significant Government land grab, AB fans just want their team to grab the ball, the game, and the opposition, by the scruff of the neck.
4. Three Waters and freshwater reforms. The late, great Sir Colin Meads used to jest that in hot, dusty South Africa in 1960, the coaching staff would only allow the All Blacks a quarter of an orange at halftime for fear of getting "bloated" if they drank water. He then went on to mercilessly mock modern players who would sometimes reach for the water bottle 30 seconds into a game if there was an early stoppage. Equally, Parker seems to mock the efforts of farmers who are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money to voluntarily clean up our waterways.
5. The Ute Tax. If you're to believe the militant wing of the Green Party, utes for farmers and tradies are just phallic symbols to parade their masculinity. Maybe that's what the All Blacks need? Or, better still, a non-EV Big Black Bus? A non-PC moniker affectionately bestowed upon Julian Savea by the French after he ran all over them in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final in Cardiff.
6. Bringing in seasonal workers from overseas. While the All Blacks managed to wrangle some MIQ magic, bringing in a much-needed Aaron Smith for an end-of-season shift, farmers and growers weren't so lucky.
Despite many of the islands where our RSE workers come from being Covid free, fruit and veges were left to rot on the tree or the ground, due to a lack of labour. This coming season doesn't look any better. Another parallel, perhaps, with Fozzie's prospects?
7. Finally, there's climate change talks. Not the COP26 variety. Our 2021 Paris Accord unfortunately saw 23 All Blacks copping it. While Jacinda will survive until the election, providing the UN doesn't come calling, Fozzie has a bigger challenge on his hands. Like the PM, he has a mandate until 2023. But he also has Razor Robertson waiting in the wings, à la Simon Bridges and Chris Luxon, ready to pick up the dropped ball and run with it.
My track record on predictions is not great. Even the last-minute penalty in Paris robbed me of my unpatriotic 1-12 margin bet at the TAB. However, I wouldn't mind checking the odds on the Ardern/Foster quinella not making it all the way to October 2023.