Rugby in New Zealand should be treated as a fragile beast. The reality is that it's a sport headed for extinction if it's not nurtured with unfailing attention.
Once Kiwis were so in love with the game officials could afford to behave in appalling ways.
Ban players' wives from social functions? Naturally.
Tell Māori they were good enough to fight in two World Wars, but couldn't go to South Africa in the All Blacks? No sweat.
Tell All Blacks they'd be banned over a couple of dollars expenses at the team hotel? It happened.
No matter what the then New Zealand Rugby Union did, no matter how bad the image presented to the public was, there would still be queues outside grounds at dawn for the chance to stand on a muddy terrace for a test that afternoon.
But now? The golden days of the oval ball automatically riveting the nation have long since gone, which is why every decision of New Zealand Rugby now has to be right.
Winning over young men and women, and keeping the senior supporters, has never been as difficult. Whether it's Netflix or snowboarding, Fortnite or mountain-biking, attractive leisure-time alternatives keep multiplying.
Three areas to help the rugby cause spring to mind.
1. NZR must make sure that the Moana Pasifika team is successfully introduced to Super Rugby in 2022.
I'd have loved to have seen it there next year, but at least we'll get a taste of how much talent and flair there is available when Moana Pasifika play the New Zealand Māori team in Hamilton next week.
For years the Blues squandered the huge talent pool of Pasifika players in South Auckland, but Moana Pasifika can hopefully offer a pathway for players to stay here, rather than cross the Tasman and bolster the Wallabies and NRL clubs.
2. The boom in women's rugby is the best thing that's happened in our rugby in the last decade.
The Black Ferns offer superstars like Michaela Blyde, Kendra Cocksedge and Portia Woodman, who not only serve as inspirational role models for aspiring players, but also lift the game to a level that the most dour diehard old school male fan has to admit is exciting to watch.
3. There needs to be a concerted drive to embrace touch football at all levels.
Every effort then needs to be made to encourage as many of the thousands of men and women and boys and girls who now play touch in summer to play rugby in winter.
The skills, whether passing and catching, or changing the angles of attack, that touch develops feel like the semi-secret that differentiates New Zealand rugby from the more rigid style of most northern teams.
Meanwhile, bravo, and bravo again, to the Auckland Rugby Union for the decision to open the gates of Eden Park on Saturday night for free admission to the Mitre 10 Cup final between Auckland and Tasman. Being in the joyous crowd of 20,100 people in 2018 at the last Eden Park final was one of the great rugby memories, and it's fantastic that officials have been brave enough to repeat the idea.
Another way to encourage kids to like rugby is for parents and grandparents to take them to live games. If the almost giddy atmosphere in 2018, when it really felt as if we were all enjoying a slightly forbidden treat, is replicated on Saturday night there couldn't be a better time for a child to discover the fun of actually being involved in a live occasion.
A good man, and a terrific journalist, has been lost with the passing of a long serving Sydney Morning Herald rugby writer, Greg Growden, whose company I had the pleasure of sharing over four decades on press benches at Bledisloe Cup and World Cup tests.
We watched many great games, but one grey October Sunday afternoon at Cardiff Arms Park in 1991, when Samoa beat Wales, is my fondest and most vivid memory. In their first World Cup the Samoans were leading 16-13 in the dying minutes, and Wales needed a try to salvage the match.
There were plenty of penalties for Wales, but the battered, terrified Welshmen were reluctant to carry the ball up in the face of thunderous Samoan tackling. Greg and I were quietly shaking with repressed amusement. Then I committed the ultimate sin for a Colonial in a British rugger press box of the time, a place that still had hints of the playing fields of Eton: I laughed out loud.
A prone Welsh player was being attended to, and Greg had muttered in my ear, "The poor bloke's suffering from a terrible case of embarrassment".