By the time you read this, Whanganui sports bodies may have learned if they will have any further leeway to resume some form of group trainings or small meetings under a Level 2 lockdown scene for the Covid-19 pandemic.
I know, having seen them in their backyards on my walks, doing pressups in their hallways on Facebook and trying some individual skill routines on empty concrete courts, that there are rather caged-up young rugby players keen to go pounce on something.
Level 1, which in a dream scenario might be a month or so away, would be the time that physical contact and possibly actual matches will be back on the table.
It's amazing how before this year – hindsight really is 2020 – we took just getting together for the footy on a Saturday afternoon for granted.
I can only imagine how special, how liberating, it will be sometime in the near future when the whistles finally blow again around the country – when national anxieties give way to classic rivalries, when indulging in life's passions supersedes fear of death.
My last couple of columns have focused on memorable rugby games at NPC and Heartland level – both of them big time playoffs.
But speaking of homecomings, of resumption of normality, I've got another all-but forgotten NPC game which has been playing in my mind recently – a jaw-dropper at Growers Stadium in Pukekohe on August 3, 2008, remembered only by those who were there.
It was my first chance since joining the Franklin County News to cover an Air New Zealand Cup fixture (don't think they'll be back in big sponsorship deals for a while), as the previous year's wooden spooners Counties Manukau were facing their big brother from up the road in defending cup champions Auckland.
The derby took on added significance because for the first time in several seasons, Counties were playing an honest-to-goodness home match, after the NZRU had laid down the law that Growers was no longer in a fit state for first class fixtures – not only in the quality of the field, but the lack of lighting to host evening games and capture that all-important prime time TV market.
Yes, the poor country cousins Counties had been one of the last holdouts – remember when we didn't play NPC games after dark in this country?
While the lighting fixtures were still a season away, the Counties Manukau RFU had worked diligently with their stakeholders to get the soil up to specifications, meaning the NZRU relented to allow three of five home matches, the day games, to be played in Pukekohe, starting with Auckland.
The other two matches that season were still held at the home-away-from-home at Mt Smart Stadium – Warriors country – and just how much of a disconnect this had on the fanbase was clear at the final game when only 800 of the hearty (mainly sponsors) made the 44km drive up State Highway 1.
This compared to 6500 Steelers supporters, and a sprinkling of visitors, who packed the Growers grandstand for this opening Sunday afternoon fixture – while they had little hope of a positive result on the scoreboard, they were there to welcome the boys home.
Counties had some names – in the backline, Tasesa Lavea and Romi Ropati were former Auckland players and Super Rugby veterans, while Niva Ta'auso was a current Highlander, from the years when the southern franchise dipped very heavily into the unsigned players pool.
Legendary NZ Sevens captain DJ Forbes was giving the XV-a-side game a rare full season at flanker, while out wide was future one-test All Black Lelia Masaga.
But it all paled to the Auckland XV under actual Counties resident Pat Lam – every member of his squad was a current Blues-contracted player, in a side so strong that six-test All Black Daniel Braid was left on the bench.
It had been 10 years since Counties had beaten Auckland, back in the era when powerhouse wingers Jonah Lomu and Joeli Vidiri had been in their pomp.
What happened in the next 80 minutes transfixed a province and, for at least a few days on talkback radio, an entire nation.
Winless for over a year in NPC, Counties controlled the first half but still played like a team that didn't know that winning feeling, making costly mistakes and trailing 6-0 just after halftime, thanks to two penalties by Auckland first-five Lachie Munro.
Counties own baby-faced standoff Dean Cummins had missed all three of his kicks, while eager winger Siale Piutau had bombed a certain five points when he sliced over to the far side to draw defenders but then tried to go himself with an unmarked Masaga crying out for the ball.
And then the unthinkable happened.
Staying on attack for once, a gap finally opened up for Ta'auso to snatch up a loose pass and dive over, with Cummins finding his kicking boots for 7-6.
It was at that moment that diminutive veteran Tanner Vili – a journeyman who played for the Hurricanes and went to two Rugby World Cups with Samoa, but had never been deemed good enough to play for Auckland while residing there – came onto the field.
Getting the ball on the halfway from a ruck after the restart, Vili let fly with a stunning 48m drop goal, the largest seen live on domestic NZ television at that time.
The Auckland players stood there and stared at Vili and then back at the posts, they just couldn't believe it.
Having broken them mentally, the super-sub Vili then sealed the deal nine minutes from fulltime when he burrowed under three tacklers to score in handy kicking position for Cummins – 17-6.
It could not have been scripted better for the big homecoming – weeping Counties players formed a prayer circle at fulltime, the fans made the grandstand shake with their chanting, and I waved goodbye to a bewildered Auckland press corp, who had go tell a story they were not expecting to write.
The Hollywood stuff ended there however.
Counties got pumped 45-3 by Bay of Plenty in Rotorua the following week, and would win only one more game for the rest of the season, 27-14 against wooden-spooners Manawatu, who had a memorable opening weekend themselves to give future champions Canterbury their only loss of that campaign.
But for that one glorious afternoon in Pukekohe, everything felt right with the world – it's a feeling that I hope can be replicated on many rugby grounds, big and small, when our national game re-emerges from the darkness and into the light of a shortened, but exciting, 2020 season.