New Zealand have become used to a steady stream of success at world rowing championships.

So does the national body write off a disappointing collective return from this year's event, which finished in Plovdiv, Bulgaria last night, as a one-off blip or something more concerning?

This is the halfway point in the four-year Olympic cycle leading to Tokyo. New Zealand bagged three medals, two silvers and a bronze, out of the 13 Olympic class events they entered. New Zealand didn't enter the 14th Olympic category, the women's quad.

It is the weakest return since 2003. By comparison, last year New Zealand won seven medals at the worlds, finishing second top nation. This time they finished 18th.

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Three of those medals were gold – all won by the three medal-winning crews at this regatta: pair combination Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler, and both double sculling duos Olivia Loe and Brooke Donoghue, and Chris Harris and John Storey.

At the most recent World Cup regatta in Lucerne in July there were five golds and a silver.
For years, Rowing New Zealand had a couple of bankers whenever it went to world or Olympics, men's pair Eric Murray and Hamish Bond, who were never beaten over eight years racing, and single sculling king Mahe Drysdale.

Others had their moments too, but those three were the sharp point of New Zealand campaigns.

Murray and Bond have gone, and Drysdale, the ageing warrior, was in the quad, whom he helped to an encouraging fourth placing. He has lost his single seat to Robbie Manson, but still harbours hopes of returning in time for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

Manson was among the disappointments in Bulgaria, finishing fifth in his final, despite having won both World Cup leadup regattas and appearing a formidable presence.

That was the same placing as last year when his preparation was hindered by injury. This time he was simply outclassed.

Both eights crews had a poor return. Neither made their A finals.

The women won a two-crew B final by a mile against a weak Chinese eight; the men were third in their B finale while single sculler Hannah Osborne was second in her B final; the women's four third.

There were two fourths, a fifth and a sixth placing from other crews in A finals while the men's four were third in their C final.

Both Harris and Donoghue were keen last night to press the 'no panic' button looking ahead.

"I think we're on the right track," the experienced Harris said.

"The Olympics is the goal. The year after the Olympics is not so competitive.

"I think the level this year is pretty close, so hopefully we can learn from that leading into the (Olympic) qualifications next year, and the following year in Tokyo."

Donoghue believes the feeling within the squad remains upbeat.

"I guess a bit of both," she said, referring to a mix of disappointment but also an acceptance things sometimes don't fall your way.

"At this point of the four-year cycle, everyone's still positive and feeling good leading onto the next couple of years.

"We can definitely learn from this and make sure it doesn't happen again."

The poor return comes against the backdrop of the departure of longtime high performance boss Alan Cotter.

He chose to resign recently after 10 years at the helm in the wake of an independent review into the culture and setup of Rowing New Zealand.

RNZ said an internal review began last April to look into pinnacle event performance at pinnacle events. It added that was tied in with the sport looking ahead "so we can refresh and continually improve to maintain our place as world leading in the high performance environment".

The last week's outcomes throw a fresh light on that statement.