Rugby Australia have only been presenting half the facts about the All Blacks' withdrawal from Perth last week, writes Gregor Paul.
The problem with having played the bad guy once before is that New Zealand Rugby appears destined to be forever cast in that role by their Sanzaar partners.
A global pandemic is raging, closing borders, forcing lockdowns and causing logistical chaos, but somehow this, and many other significant facts related to it, have been ignored to enable Australian rugby administrators to indulge in their new favourite game of trying to do what their players so painfully can't, and beat up on New Zealand.
Headlines have made it around the world in the last few days, portraying the rage Rugby Australia is feeling at supposedly hearing on social media about a unilateral, out of the blue decision by NZR to pull out of the third Bledisloe Cup test scheduled for Perth on August 28.
The problem was, however, that the Australian version of events was an epic failure to present the full story.
NZR were the bad guys last year when they unilaterally disbanded Super Rugby without consultation.
And NZR were the bad guys again when they condescendingly invited Australian franchises to bid to rejoin the competition.
But on this occasion, NZR are not the bad guys, however much RA wants to pin that badge on them.
The uncertainty about where and when the Rugby Championship will be played is not being driven by the usual petty Sanzaar politics and self-interest, but by a global pandemic that continues to rage through Oceania to such an extent that the Springboks and Pumas – both in South Africa – can't get into Australia.
This salient fact has gone missing from the RA narrative and yet it is the one central to understanding the situation and justifying NZR's decision to keep the All Blacks at home for now.
What happened is that early last week New South Wales's state government decided, with Delta cases presenting at unprecedented levels, it could no longer allow Argentina and South Africa to quarantine there.
That left Sanzaar having to negotiate with other state governments to see where the two incoming teams could be housed.
Western Australia agreed to allow the All Blacks to complete a soft, seven-day quarantine where they could train and then play the Wallabies in Perth on August 28.
But they said no to housing the South Africans and Argentinians and said no to hosting any other Rugby Championship games.
At which point – believed to be Wednesday/Thursday last week – Sanzaar, in consultation with its four member countries, scrambled three potential hosting options for the remainder of the tournament [excluding the test between New Zealand and Australia which was still set for Perth].
The options, in order of preference, were Queensland, UK and South Africa.
Queensland, to be viable, would require confirmation the state government could not only find a facility in which to isolate the Pumas and Springboks, but also agree to it being a soft quarantine where they could fully train.
If those two teams could be successfully housed on those terms, then New Zealand would have flown to Perth on Saturday August 21, played the Wallabies on August 28 and then moved to Queensland for the rest of the tournament.
But as Sanzaar and RA were aware, because there was constant dialogue all week, NZR needed confirmation about the Queensland situation by 2pm on Friday August 20 to commit to getting on the plane.
Again, as Sanzaar and RA were aware, NZR had outlined their position that they couldn't send the All Blacks to Perth without confirmation that the rest of the Rugby Championship would be played in Australia.
As both Sanzaar and RA were aware, if the All Blacks travelled to Perth to play on August 28 and the Rugby Championship was cancelled, they would be stuck there – unable to return home until November 23.
When the 2pm deadline passed without confirmation from the Queensland government about their ability to offer quarantine places to South Africa and Argentina, New Zealand publicly announced they would not be travelling to Perth the following day.
This was not unilateral, unexpected or uncommunicated. Not only had it been discussed at Sanzaar executive level, but All Blacks captain Sam Whitelock had been in regular contact with Wallabies captain Michael Hooper keeping him appraised of the situation and New Zealand's intent.
It's also understood that well in advance of New Zealand confirming their decision not to travel to Perth, Sanzaar had been informed that the Springboks and Pumas had cancelled their charter flight to Australia which was due to leave South Africa on August 22.
RA was in a desperate hurry to blame the All Blacks for endangering the Rugby Championship going ahead, when they must have known that both the Pumas and Springboks had made their decision not to travel to Australia way in advance of NZR announcing their plans.
Far from being the bad guy, NZR made a responsible, practical decision – one which respects the welfare of their players and, just as importantly, creates a wider range of options as to where and when the rearranged fixture against the Wallabies can be played.
What's also not been put in the public domain is that RA, prior to Friday, were adamant with NZR that the game in Perth could not be played the following weekend on September 4.
Now that the All Blacks have stayed at home and been publicly denounced for it, RA has confirmed that playing in Perth on September 4 is an option after all.
The only conclusion that can be reached after analysis of these events is that RA, having sold 60,000 tickets to play in Perth on August 28, were upset that their attempt to pressure NZR into coming to fulfil the fixture on that specific day had failed.
The Wallabies, who have already been on the road for several weeks and have been parked up in Perth since they left Auckland on August 15, were understandably disappointed that there won't be a game on August 28.
But NZR's decision to not travel has neither killed the fixture nor damaged the integrity of the Rugby Championship.
If Queensland can confirm early this week that it can quarantine the Pumas and Springboks and host tests, then the All Blacks will fly to Perth, do their seven days in soft isolation and play the Wallabies on September 4 before travelling to Australia's Sunshine State.
Alternatively, if Queensland is ruled out, then the Rugby Championship will shift to the UK and that may still see the All Blacks travel to Western Australia to play the Wallabies on September 4 and then head north after.
Or, if that is not feasible, the game will be rescheduled – with October 9 and Wembley shaping as the most likely date and venue.
One final point NZR has made clear to RA and Sanzaar is that the remaining fixture between the All Blacks and Wallabies is not, in their eyes, the third Bledisloe but the second Rugby Championship test.
The Bledisloe is safely locked up at NZR headquarters in Wellington – a final fact which may be driving RA to only present half the facts about what really happened last week.