Another Rugby World Cup done and dusted. They seem to roll around almost as quick as Christmases.
On field, no single country escaped getting both done and dusted. But South Africa got done and dusted - by us, as it happened - on a day when luckily it didn't matter too much, and so they eventually got to hoist the Cup.
All credit, we took it on the chin. But then, we've had quite a lot of practice at that. Despite almost totally dominating the world rankings for the last two or three decades, we've only managed to get our name engraved on the cup three times out of a possible nine. There was even one time when we didn't make it past the quarterfinals, Lord forbid! Them's the vagaries of knock-out tournaments.
But despite the fact that we've moved on from the archetypal rugby, racing and beer days, and there's now a whole plethora of alternative sports siphoning off youngsters previously destined for rugby fodder, rugger itself still commands a major chunk of our national psyche.
A World Cup loss is worst, but the loss – or winning, for that matter - of any test seems to still have a disproportionate effect on the nation's mood. Why is that? After all, like all games, rugby's basically a bit of temporary insanity whereby grown people who should know better expend huge amounts of physical and psychic energy chivvying the hell out of a silly ball.
Well, it's a pretty safe bet it's all to do with identity. Early Euro settlers obviously introduced it, and it proved a powerful point of connection for isolated rural communities. The tribal, competitive and vicariously combative nature of the game also struck a chord with Māori, so they energetically jumped on board, too. Suddenly we had a zeitgeist – one that we proved pretty good at, and which soon helped define us.
No surprise that the only other nation to get its name engraved on the Webb Ellis Cup three times is a similarly structured, originally rural-based nation – the current holders. Arguably, the Australians – with two wins – fit a similar bill.
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The exception is England, with its solitary – some say, flukey – victory, but maybe they're allowed a windfall win for inventing the game. And let's not forget, rugby is now a genuine global game - albeit numerically still dwarfed by football/soccer - played by about 120 disparate nations.
The upshot was that success on the rugby field got conflated with "success" as a nation. For a while, the two ran hand-in-hand. We achieved great progress in most measures of social and economic success to the extent we were considered international exemplars - well on the way to reinforcing "King" Dick Seddon's opinion of us as "God's own country".
And, starting with the 1956 home series, once we finally got the wood on the old foe South Africa, we were also on the road to rugby pre-eminence as well.
But then a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. The rugby maintained rude health, but the nation's social and economic fabric started to unravel at the seams.
Sure, we retain enough natural advantages and resources to still be seen as a highly desirable location compared to many trashed-out corners of the planet. But contrasted to our initial innate potential as a nation, we've turned to – not to put too fine a point on it – crap.
Tragically – and unbelievably – we now feature on the podium for consistently being in the leading pack of dead-beats with regard to just about any set of negative social statistics you choose to name – from youth suicide to domestic violence to substance addiction to inequality to you-name-it.
When many have lost the feel-good factor in their own homes and neighbourhoods, maybe that's why we still cling to success at a silly ball game as our feel-good substitute.