Nothing like a slew of men behaving badly to ping the old deja vu radar.

As acclaimed thought leader Ecclesiastes once put it - it was a Ted Talk, I think - there is nothing new under the sun. And never has it felt more thus than this week in New Zealand: the real-life equivalent of a television "clip show", in which the producers eke out an extra episode made up of scenes already screened.

First out of the retro-traps was the Peter Pan of New Zealand politics, Winston Peters, with a tub-thumping classic at the New Zealand First Party annual gathering in Dunedin. If it seems churlish to upbraid Winston for belting out the classics - let's just call it an age-old consistency of message - the deja-vu radar was bleeping away as the week wore on and the great double-breasted survivor became embroiled in a donations row. Did Winston receive a donation from the leader of the immigrant People's Party? The sign still says NO, ladies, gentlemen and assorted morons of the commentariat. Fine print is for losers.

Those of us keen to escape the shackles of the past found a fleeting ally in the Prime Minister, who advised listeners in a Newstalk ZB interview against "looking back ... I don't think they should look back"; except then of course he referred us, ad nauseam, to "the nine years that Helen was Prime Minister" - our own version of that sublime Tony Blair line: "A day like today is not a day for soundbites, we can leave those at home, but I feel the hand of history upon our shoulder ... "

Meanwhile, in other nostalgia nightmares, the High Court in Auckland should have hung a trigger warning across its architrave this week for anyone suffering Moment of Truth post-electoral stress disorder. In one courtroom, the greatest endurance sport known to humankind, aka the Kim Dotcom legal process, ploughed mercilessly on. Around the corner, Colin Craig and Jordan Williams were slugging it out in a blur of alleged sexts and saucy poetry - Dirty Politics reimagined as Mills & Boon. Reading the reports I feared my eyes might leap from their sockets and seek asylum in Australia. And yesterday we learned the Eminem copyright case against the National Party, yet another footnote in the Sisyphean fever dream of the 2014 campaign, has been scheduled for Wellington's High Court, too.


If there were any doubt that we are living in the past, that was depressingly extinguished - along with all scraps of nostalgic entertainment - on Wednesday afternoon, when New Zealand's rugby establishment did their darnedest to close the curtain on the scandal around the Chiefs squad's end-of-season function and a stripper called Scarlette, who had alleged various players had touched her inappropriately. The scene itself was soaked in sepia: four blokes plonked at a desk facing the media. There were "huge learnings", in the words of the Chiefs CEO Andrew Flexman. And what were those? Essentially, the players had "made a poor decision in hiring this form of entertainment", and erred further in doing it "in a public space". It was all about difficult positions. There was "the fact our players were in this position in the first place". That had "put our organisation in a difficult position". And it had put "our sponsors in a compromised and difficult position".

What position was Scarlette left in? Didn't really get a mention. Yes, she was proffered a strangely incoherent and indirect apology later in the piece, but it was made very clear it wasn't about her - there had been no evidence found to support her allegation, following an inquiry consulting a bunch of "independent witnesses", conducted by the Rugby Union's very own in-house counsel.

It amounted to this: the boys had erred in hiring a stripper. That's perfectly legal, and hardly shocking. And yet, puzzlingly, it was "a black mark on rugby", said NZ Rugby chief Steve Tew; everyone in the squad had been severely reprimanded. "We believe this caution is a very serious moment in these players' career, and they've all taken responsibility for it, including the players who weren't actually at the function."

Given this conclusion, can we expect NZ Rugby will be sending urgent letters to all the professional sides in New Zealand asking if any players or clubs have hired strippers, and issuing them with black marks if so? The answer can only be yes.

And, hang on, "including the players who weren't actually at the function"? Turns out the whole squad had accepted "collective responsibility" for what went on (which was obviously nothing, anyway), even the 16 members of the squad who weren't actually there. This is amazing: maybe we should all take a bit of responsibility: just because you didn't know about it, did you do anything to stop it? Well? Black mark for you.

This collective responsibility on the part of the Chiefs was praised both by Tew - "I think that is to their credit" - and Flexman: "The players have really front-footed it. They've owned it." Have they really? Where the hell are they? Is this really a laudable example of solidarity and contrition? Or is it a closing of ranks, a going to ground, a self-applied proxy name suppression?

I was left with some rather gloomy learnings from this latest episode around New Zealand's national game, too. Rugby in 2016 strains to project progressive and modern values, the exclusive old boys club consigned to history.

But while the posture of the response was superficially in tune with that, all severity, humility and remorse, it was all sound and fury, signifying not very much at all - a mindset stuck in the past. Foreskin's Lament for the media age.