New Zealand sports fans have a collective confession to make. We are increasingly a nation of bandwagon supporters.
Sense a win? All aboard. Expecting a loss? Look for the closest exit.
The All Whites are a prime example. Other than a flimsy connection to Spurs while living in London my affiliation to football is near non-existent. Yet there I was last week, front and centre at 6am, ready to will the lads on against Costa Rica in their quest to qualify for the World Cup.
Many other Kiwis would admit to falling into the same category.
Had the All Whites succeeded in qualifying at Costa Rica's expense, their fixture against the Socceroos at Eden Park on September 25 is likely to have sold out, with expectant fans flocking to share in the occasion, to witness our next sporting heroes en route to the World Cup.
Instead, having missed qualification following the dramatic 1-0 Doha defeat, that Socceroos match – scheduled the day after the second All Blacks Bledisloe Cup test at the same venue – may now struggle to half fill Eden Park, such is the battle all New Zealand sports face to capture hearts and minds beyond their ardent fans.
With their side riding an unprecedented 15-game unbeaten run Blues fans streamed to Eden Park – selling out last Saturday's final in five hours – in the hope of savouring their first fully-fledged Super Rugby title in 19 years.
Unfortunately for the bandwagon the 'I was there' urge did not quite pan out as planned.
Where were those same Blues fans prior to the final? And after being upstaged by the Crusaders, will they return for opening round next year?
This phenomenon is evident across the spectrum of New Zealand sport.
How many fight fans fawned over Israel Adesanya before he earned the crown of the most dominant UFC middleweight on the planet? Now everyone wants a piece of his fame. Will they still be there when he loses?
When the Black Caps won the inaugural World Test Championship last year they were the toast of the town. Blurry eyes, white shirts, steady the ship captain hats were widely evident as supporters rode every stroke, every ball, through the early hours of the six-day test.
Now 2-0 down in their lost test series against the Brendon McCullum-inspired England, and Kiwi cricket fans have suddenly swallowed a kookaburra.
The America's Cup, while polarising, evokes a sense of national pride largely due to our historic success in the event. Would we care as much, though, without New Zealand's compelling record?
Ask New Zealanders about SailGP, after the Kiwi boat finished fifth in the first year, and interest plummets.
New Zealand shares a similar connection to many Commonwealth Games and Olympic sports. Part of this can be attributed to an eagerness to validate our sense of self on the world stage. We love nothing more than celebrating gold medal success - yet have seemingly minimal appetite for closely tracking individual Diamond League athletics results or other less profiled rowing and cycling events.
Remember the trampoline gymnastics experts emerging when Dylan Schmidt won New Zealand's first Olympic medal in Tokyo?
Team sports experience an even more profound ravenous thirst for success.
While Covid crowd restrictions proved prohibitive, attendances at the recent women's Cricket World Cup suffered from the White Ferns' failure to reach the knockouts.
Much rests on the Black Ferns to carry their home World Cup later this year, too.
When the Breakers claimed four titles in five years they shifted half their games from the North Shore Events Centre to Spark Arena. After their last two dire years of Covid-enforced exile in Australia – the Beakers won 5/28 games in their 2021/2022 season – they are in danger of disappearing from the New Zealand sporting consciousness.
Compare those wild fluctuations to the devoted, unflinching support football teams such as Sunderland or Lincoln City receive and the differences are stark.
As a teenager a mate and I bought season tickets to the Wellington Lions NPC side and Hurricanes. Every second winter weekend we drove from Foxton to Paraparaumu, caught a train from there to Wellington, before making the two-hour post game return the same night.
We savoured memorable wins in the Cullen-Umaga-Lomu era, sure, but also sat through many losses, many grim, cold, wet, nights and one car break-in (a sombre drive home with no sounds and a smashed window following a defeat). Yet we would always be back for the next home match.
Other than perhaps long-suffering, hard-core Warriors fans, does this form of unconditional support exist in New Zealand anymore?
Or do we need success and an overwhelming sense of national pride to be drawn in?
Joining the bandwagon is easy. Sticking through the dark times takes true support.
New Zealand sports fans are world-beaters at hitching the cart to winners but maybe it is time to admit we are not so keen to hang around when the wheels fall off.
Swimming, rugby league take a stance
The issue of transgender participation in women's sport is a highly vexed topic but the decisions from swimming's governing body, Fina, and the International Rugby League this week to exclude trans women who have experienced male puberty from elite competitions seems a common-sense approach.
Fina members voted 71.5 per cent in favour of the new policy that includes plans for a new "open competition" category.
Two days later the International Rugby League said it was continuing to review and update rules about transgender participation in women's tournaments.
"Until further research is completed to enable the IRL to implement a formal transgender inclusion policy, male-to-female (transwomen) players are unable to play in sanctioned women's international rugby league matches," the IRL said in a statement.
Swimming's decision in particular will make it easier for other global sports to follow.
This issue often evokes emotionally charged views for a topic that affects very few athletes in professional sport. Ultimately, Fina has prioritised the integrity of its elite women's competitions. The situation becomes more complex at the amateur level, however, where participation and inclusion in all sports is actively encouraged, and does not carry the same financial or career implications.
Record: 8/18 (-$19)
The Blues flop in the final plunged The Sauce further into the red - the supremely dominant 21-7 Crusaders triumph blowing out the either team by 7.5 points or less tip. This week, the Black Caps decline has pushed me to tip England to win the third test at $2.05.
How would you rate the Black Ferns' first three matches under Wayne Smith, and do you think we have a good chance of winning the World Cup? Leslie, Rotorua
In terms of improvement I would give the Black Ferns 7/10 for their Pac Four performances. Three victories against Australia, in torrential rain, Canada and the USA delivered gradual growth which was evident with their attacking game plan and individual performances. Ushering in 11 rookies significantly bolsters depth, creating widespread squad competition too. As far as the World Cup is concerned, though, England and France remain favourites.