ANY GIVEN MONDAY (Tuesday edition)
Like a getaway driver in a chase scene, the NRL tried to shoot the gap as the bridge was being drawn and… plummeted hopelessly into the abyss.
How big the splash is remains to be seen but none of the language used by league administrators and commentators give much cause for hope.
This was not just a case that highlighted the precarious state of league's finances, but that of sports which rely so heavily upon broadcasting money.
• Premium - Dylan Cleaver: Why rugby sabbaticals have to die
• Premium - Dylan Cleaver: The one change we can be sure of in sport's next decade
• Premium - Dylan Cleaver: Rugby has much more to lose than a few games of footy
• Premium - Dylan Cleaver: 11 docos all sports fans must see
Starting the NRL seemed a little desperate when it was obvious the world was changing around us at a pace nobody could anticipate; the attempt to continue when everything else – not just sport but everything - was on the verge of shutting down was borderline perverse.
The condemnation of the NRL was swift and came from a wide spectrum of Australians but the fact that Peter V'landys of the ARL Commission and NRL CEO Todd Greenberg were so committed to swimming against the tide could only mean one of four things.
1. They misread the room and felt that their loyal fan base and wider Australian public would be grateful for their efforts.
Possible at first, but highly unlikely by the end.
Sport can act as an echo chamber. Indeed, here in New Zealand the situation was not dissimilar, with NZ Rugby looking at ways of playing Super Rugby, backed by the encouragement of many pundits, long after it seemed remotely sensible.
With the likes of prominent commentator Phil Gould – an unreconstructed boofhead – in their ears, league administrators might have genuinely thought that it was better for everybody if the show went on.
As the clamour grew for the NRL to shut down and they still remained committed to carrying on, it pointed to something larger at play.
2. They didn't get good Covid-19 advice.
Again, it's possible that they thought that playing behind closed doors and travelling to and from games in chartered planes and hermetically sealed buses was enough to ensure the safety of the players and the public.
V'landys indicated that they acted decisively as soon as the health and safety concerns became too great.
"As we said from the outset, the paramount consideration in our decision making process has always been the safety and health of our players," he said. "Unfortunately that's taken a dramatic turn today. Our pandemic expert and biosecurity expert have said due to the rapid rate of infection, we can no longer guarantee the safety of our players to continue to play."
If they really have pandemic and biosecurity experts at hand, it lacks credibility to suggest that last night was the tipping point, given that advice about the need for social distancing even among small clusters of people has been widespread for many days.
3. That they were opportunistic.
Winter codes in Australia fight such a battle for attention and the attendant corporate dollar that one – football – long ago migrated to summer to ensure its future prosperity.
With Super Rugby grounded, perhaps the NRL felt it could not only preserve its own audience, but convert some new ones as well.
If you believe in the idea that in a time of crisis people are essentially good, this is a theory best ignored.
4. That the game, and by extension its clubs, was facing financial ruin if it stopped.
This is the unpalatable truth.
The NRL was desperate to continue because even without a pandemic it was in trouble. A war chest that should contain about $450 million reportedly only has about $70m left. That is barely enough to prop up a couple of clubs whose revenue pipelines have been shut off, let alone 16.
It is estimated the sport will lose $13m for every unplayed round and close to $500m over the season.
Many believe, when the NRL returns, it will do so as something significantly less than a 16-team competition, a belief given weight after Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he doesn't see the propping up of the NRL as a high priority.
That is why, even on Sunday as the clock was about to strike midnight, the NRL was making entreaties to the Government to be allowed to continue under the "essential services" exemption.
This was V'landys and Greenberg's moment of truth. They were on the bench seat of their Holden while the bridge was being drawn, with no way back and only a yawning credibility gap in front of them.
They gunned the engine and went for it.
They fell well short.