With Covid's tail wagging and lockdowns lagging, it's hard to remember that there should have been a test match at Eden Park last week.
There would have been one in Dunedin the week before that – a massive encounter no less as every available ticket to see the All Blacks play the Springboks for the 100th time had been snapped up.
Wellington was going to host the Pumas and there would have been nine home tests in New Zealand this year.
Instead, we only saw five played on home soil, after just two last year and three in 2019. The last time New Zealand hosted European opposition was June 2018 when France came.
The Boks haven't been on these shores since July 2019 and in the last three years the All Blacks have played just 10 tests in New Zealand.
It would have been 11, but the decision was made to play the third Bledisloe of 2018 in Japan rather than New Zealand to prepare for the World Cup and a move that made sense back then has added to the undeniable disconnect of right now.
Out of sight, out of mind has proven to be the case and there is a growing estrangement between the wider rugby public and the national team.
This has been a slow-burning story in 2021 – one that at times has been exaggerated and sold as a nation falling out of love with both rugby and the All Blacks.
When the stadia for the Pacific Series tests were barely half full in consecutive weeks in July, there was an evidential basis to start wondering about the pull of the All Blacks.
That increased when there were only 25,000 people at Eden Park for the second Bledisloe Cup test in August.
Some commentators made bold proclamations that the empty seats at Eden Park were the definitive proof that New Zealanders have shifted their cultural appreciation to new and diverse forms of entertainment and in doing so, have lost their fixation with the All Blacks.
The evidence was misinterpreted, however. The empty seats could just as easily be explained by the perceived quality of the opposition and in the case of the second Bledisloe – a test which was unprecedented in being against the same opponent at the same venue twice in seven days – a failure in ticket pricing and marketing.
As counter evidence to refute or at least downplay the exaggerated claims of the public disconnect, tickets for the centennial test in Dunedin were sold out within hours and the proposed second game at Eden Park on October 2 had sold 35,000 tickets and all of the corporate hospitality by mid-July.
New Zealand's public have not given up on the All Blacks or fallen out of love with rugby.
But it would be dangerous for NZR to think there has not been any negative impact in the last three years and that the team has the same breadth and intensity of support that it once did.
It hasn't helped that for much of this year NZR, in its quest to do a deal with private equity group Silver Lake, has laboured the importance of winning fans in offshore markets.
It has regularly said there are an estimated 100 million potential All Blacks fans scattered all over the world, and that engaging this group is the key to building a sustainable financial future.
NZR has been dealt an awful hand. Covid, coming a year after the All Blacks were barely seen in New Zealand because of the truncated World Cup schedule and then lingering through 2021, has loosened but not broken the bonds between a once adoring public and the national team.
It's unlikely that thousands of fans have been lost, more that they need to be switched back on and this sits as NZR's most pressing challenge in 2022.
Next year needs to be one where the All Blacks are empowered to reconnect with their public, fill those empty seats, win back old fans who have gone a little cold and find new ones among a nation that will be looking for hope as it emerges into the uncertainty of a post-lockdown world.
A return to a traditional schedule where there are home tests in July followed by Rugby Championship games will provide only the basis to rebuild the relationship.
NZR, though, will have to come up with a smart, detailed plan around ticket pricing and promotion to reflect that it understands that household budgets are under duress and that fans can't be taken for granted.
Media engagement needs a rethink, too, so that fans are given a deeper appreciation of the people and personalities driving the team.
Domestic fans need to feel loved and wanted again and reassured that the All Blacks are their team.