It would have stung at the time, been a bit of a sit down moment as the disappointment washed through the system, but missing out on the All Blacks captaincy has been the making of Sam Whitelock.
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He seems now like a man at peace with his place in the world, certain that he can still be a leader, a vital cog and inspiration to others without actually being the captain of the All Blacks.
He's worked out that he enjoys being a leader and maybe realised that he doesn't necessarily love captaincy.
Or at least he's aware now, as the All Blacks begin to get serious about meeting the Wallabies on Sunday in their first test of the year, that he doesn't have to be the captain to effectively lead others and he's found the lack of burden liberating.
Probably more accurate is that he's found that the clarity and certainty that has come since not being asked to replace Kieran Read as captain of the All Blacks earlier this year, has been a powerful force.
It didn't devastate him to learn that new coach Ian Foster was appointing Sam Cane captain. It didn't crush Whitelock's spirit to be told that he had missed out on a job he did five times between 2017 and 2019 to Cane's twice.
It's almost as if he realised that what Neitzsche said about what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, is entirely true, which meant he could make sense of all the twists and turns this year has thrown at him.
He began the year in Japan playing for Panasonic and planned to return to New Zealand in May and hopefully captain the All Blacks against Wales and Scotland.
Instead, he was home by April, already aware that he'd missed out on the All Blacks job.
Then he found himself back in Super Rugby Aotearoa with the Crusaders, but not as the captain. He was back to being a foot soldier and he ended up loving not having that endless weight of responsibility that comes with captaincy.
That's why Whitelock was rejuvenated in Super Rugby. He was leaner, faster, more dynamic and more influential than he had been in either of the previous two years.
And that's why he's arrived in the All Blacks camp as mentally and physically fresh as he's been in decades.
"It has been completely different to what we thought was going to happen," he says.
"We were in Japan for four months when it was meant to be six. When we came back it was meant to be straight into internationals if selected. So it is completely different but for me it has been awesome to have that time away from rugby to clear up a few of those little niggles that you can't actually get rid of unless you have time away from the game.
"But just the mental side of being outside of New Zealand and being with Panasonic and walking in not knowing if this person is a player, coach or CEO.
"Having to go back to square one and having to learn those things was awesome. I think I am in a better spot now than I otherwise would have been."
Whitelock is now beginning his 11th season of test rugby, already ranked as the fourth-most capped All Black in history.
He's led the Crusaders to three Super Rugby titles and obviously, given his standing in the world game and experience, he's been asked to play a vital role in supporting Cane as captain.
This first week proper back with the All Blacks, he says, has been about working out how he can best do that.
"It is good to be able to have a fresh look at things. I have played a lot of rugby with Sam and we are all trying to work out where we can have our point of difference. How can we help and as a team how do we not load him up so he has to do too much.
"The biggest thing is how do we help him so it is not just him out there and the key thing for us older guys is to make sure that he doesn't feel like he's isolated."