It has been a difficult and at times tense year for the All Blacks so far and they haven't yet played a test.
They have had a price tag of $3.1bn slapped on them by a US fund manager, attracted the attention of various corporate giants as new kit sponsors – one of which has earned the wrath of Greenpeace – and heard that there is a strategy being developed to win them millions of dollars from offshore fans.
This intense and rapid commercialisation of the All Blacks has not sat easily with the playing and management group – the former being vehemently and overtly opposed to the proposal to sell future revenue rights to US investment group Silver Lake and the latter believed to be concerned about having UK petrochemical company Ineos as a sponsor next year.
In the week that the Herald revealed that Ineos, labelled by environmentalists as one of the major polluters of the world's oceans will put their name on the back of the All Blacks shorts, Adidas, whose logo will be on the front of the shorts, were hosting their Run for the Oceans event – an initiative to raise money to clean tonnes of plastic out of the sea.
To many players, it now feels like this quest to monetise the All Blacks is moving too fast and too far.
The All Blacks have been incrementally commercialised since the game went professional in 1996.
New Zealand Rugby has had to keep finding ways to drive revenue to pay for player salaries that rise at unfathomable levels given they are linked to global markets – and this constant need for more money has seen the national body expand the portfolio of sponsors, play more tests around the world and demand more of the players' time to promote and fulfil these commercial obligations.
It has been a source of creeping tension, sparking fears inside the team that high performance could be compromised.
That tension has been amplified by the tone of the debate that erupted when the players voiced their collective concerns about doing a deal with Silver Lake.
In doing so, they were accused by former NZR chair Brent Impey of potentially endangering the entire grassroots of the game.
It was a comment that had a profound and damaging impact, as not only did it leave professional players feeling judged by their employer, it left many feeling misconstrued and misrepresented on an issue about which they care deeply.
Being connected, supportive and linked to the grassroots and community game is an integral part of being an All Black.
"The whole time I was there we would always talk about our connection with the community," former All Black Conrad Smith told the Herald in mid-May.
"As an All Black team we were a flagship for a nation and we prided ourselves on being better than any other country.
"You don't just say that as a gimmicky thing to try to motivate yourself for one game. We believed in that and that is why all the motivation and the emotion of wearing the All Blacks jersey – what it means to players – we talked about that every All Black camp, every week you live as an All Black you are always aware of that."
Being the people's team is something that matters to the All Blacks and the bickering about Silver Lake has come during an almost unprecedented period of low profile for the national team, who have only played five times at home since mid-September 2018.
The nation's team has become a virtual entity to their public – accessible via TV and social media.
The All Blacks, through circumstances beyond their control have not been anywhere near as present, visible, touchable or as engaged with their own people as they have wanted to be since they headed off on a five-game end of year tour in October 2018, which included a Bledisloe test that was shifted from Auckland to Yokohama.
The World Cup reduced their home schedule to just three tests in 2019 before they spent nine weeks in Japan and then last year Covid-19 struck and the All Blacks played just two tests in New Zealand before they had to camp in Australia to play the Rugby Championship.
It wouldn't be accurate to say the team have become estranged from their fans, but there is a strong desire on the part of coach Ian Foster to reconnect, to remind everyone the All Blacks are built on the strength of local communities and an appreciation of whence they have come.
The team needs money and an element of corporatisation, but what it needs more is direct and strong links with the grassroots; a strong reminder of its emotional base, to perhaps deflect the focus on its financial needs.
The goal is to not just win test matches in 2021 but also capture hearts and minds in the process and by extension, diffuse some of the tension that has arisen between the players and their employer.
That's why last week, the All Blacks spent three days in South Auckland, visiting schools, vaccination stations, and meeting health workers.
"I really believe this team has to [reconnect]," says Foster. "We have had 12 months where we have hardly played in New Zealand. We had two tests last year and we were behind closed doors most of the time. "This time [July tests] we still felt it was important to go down to a community and link and there are a whole lot of reasons why I think that is powerful.
"We have a big Pasifika influence in our team and that was a chance to link there. We are going to try to open up our training on certain days just to try to feel the community around us a little more."
For the players, these moments matter. They are a means to remind them of the responsibility they carry and to trigger a sense of gratitude for the lives they live as All Blacks.
"It is huge to be able to connect with our fans and our wider community," says Codie Taylor.
"That started last year with us wanting to connect with people in Whakatane how they suffered the eruption and this year in South Auckland they have been hit a bit harder with Covid.
"Taking yourself out of your everyday commitments and putting yourself in those situations and seeing other people's lives really gives you a sense of humility.
"Other people are doing it a lot harder than yourself and to see that, brings you down to earth and makes you realise that what we take for granted is pretty special."
There's an even more practical element to it, says Rieko Ioane. It is a means to link the players more closely and provide them with greater insight into what makes them all tick.
"It would be easy for outsiders to say it is just a PR ploy, to question why the All Blacks are really there," he says.
"But we genuinely are all connected on a different level outside of rugby. We did a lot of Samoan or Pacific cultural things. That connection helps us build towards the Saturday.
"Will Jordan came up to me with all this Island food on his plate and he was saying this is unreal. So when we get those connections, it builds towards the Saturday because I now know Will loves all the Island food and I know a bit more about him, so I trust him more and will play that much harder for him.
"In this environment, there is a genuine care for past, future and present players."
Saturday's match against Tonga will be the first of nine the All Blacks play in New Zealand – a schedule that is unprecedented in the professional age.
Potentially, so many domestic tests could become overwhelming, suffocating for the players almost but Foster says he would rather that than more time away from home.
"While it looks rosy it brings another degree of pressure, doesn't it? You have got a lot of demands from fans, from family and friends and all sorts of things, but after last year, we will take it. We will take whatever we can get.
"We are excited by the programme, we know there is pressure, but nine games here is great for our rugby community and we have got to make sure it is. We have got to put a product on and play like a team that really wants to be at the top of the mountain and that is our goal."
What success looks like in 2021 is the All Blacks back at No 1 in the world, cordial and respectful relations restored with NZR's executive and a deeper appreciation nationwide that the players feel more at home on muddy fields in heartland New Zealand than they do in the boardrooms of global corporations.