By Simon Kay
With the Football Ferns set to play their first games since their abysmal World Cup campaign, now is the time for coach Tom Sermanni to oversee an overhaul.
The Ferns contest a four-team tournament in China next month, playing the hosts on November 7 and Canada or Brazil three days later.
With the 2020 Tokyo Games just nine months away, the temptation for Sermanni is to complete this World Cup-Olympics cycle without changing personnel.
But New Zealand's alarming regression at the World Cup in France four months ago showed a side desperately in need of a shake-up.
The Ferns started brightly against a Netherlands team that went on to make the final but they sat back so deep in the last half hour, it was no surprise when the Dutch scored an injury-time winner.
In their next match against Canada, the Ferns produced perhaps their worst ever performance at a pinnacle event. In a dire 2-0 defeat, New Zealand managed just two shots - both late and off-target - to Canada's 22.
Even after the Canada debacle, the Ferns (ranked 19th in the world) could still have salvaged a spot in the last 16 of the 24-team tournament by beating Cameroon (ranked 46th) in their final pool game but even that proved too much.
The Ferns went behind and despite being gifted a way back into the game with a Cameroon own goal, conceded a late second to lose 2-1 and the Africans advanced to the knockout rounds instead.
Immediately after the Cameroon match, players were talking about experience gained and lessons learned and were already looking ahead to the Tokyo Olympics, like it was a given they would be there.
And that underlines a major issue with this team: The lack of competition for places. This is essential to improve the performance of any elite team but has been almost non-existent in the Ferns.
This year's World Cup was at least the fourth pinnacle event for 14 of the players Sermanni selected. Three - Abby Erceg, Ali Riley and Ria Percival - have been to all seven World Cups and Olympics since 2007. Seven of the Ferns in France had accumulated more than 100 caps and another two are closing in on the milestone.
That's a vast amount of experience but it has not translated into results. This team has become, to borrow a phrase from Jose Mourinho, specialists in failure.
But there have been no consequences for poor performances. Tournament after tournament, the same players have been selected. And if the trend continues in Tokyo, expect the same outcome.
Last year, the players banded together to get rid of a coach they didn't like and also secured a ground-breaking deal which saw them gain pay and travel parity with their male counterparts in the All Whites. Neither development reversed their record of failure at the World Cup in June.
Part of the solution is promoting the best young players, including from the New Zealand team that finished third at last year's Fifa Under-17 World Cup, capturing the public imagination in a way the Football Ferns never have.
Next year is probably too soon for the majority of these teenagers to feature at the Olympics but Sermanni must at least attempt to create competition for places to get more out of his senior players.
For an example of what can be achieved, look at netball's Silver Ferns. Katrina Rore was captain when they failed to medal for the first time at last year's Commonwealth Games.
She was dropped and was uncertain she would even be selected for this year's World Cup. As a result, she lifted her game and then played her part as the Silver Ferns capped a remarkable transformation by becoming world champions in July.
Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua showed what can be done in less than a year with the right approach. The onus is on Sermanni to break his team's cycle of failure.