No games. No fans. No broadcast deal. 2020 was a crap year for many and one that nearly crippled professional rugby in our country.
And all this barely 6 months on from a disappointing World Cup and the unprecedented fall out from the Israel Folau saga.
But like the old saying to "never waste a crisis", I think those in charge have made changes that have rugby heading back towards a brighter future.
Now the work begins to rebuild a notorious villain into a Super Rugby AU force and continue to convince more people to tune into games and stream through the gates.
IS THE TIDE TURNING?
A barometer I use for how rugby and the ACT Brumbies are going is the reception I get at my local cafe.
Each morning there's plenty of chit-chat amongst the customers, which covers everything from books to Bitcoin.
In the past when I've been asked about Rugby, the question usually goes along the lines of "What's wrong with...?" and "What are they doing to fix it?".
Omar, the owner of Doubleshot, is a mad soccer fan and a very busy guy who runs multiple cafes and restaurants, and I always thought the "goings on of rugby" was way off his radar.
MORE RUGBY UNION
But recently when I've strolled down to get my morning brew, I've been greeted with comments like "How good are the Brums going!" and "What a game!" from him and others.
Comments that make me think the game has turned a corner, and that people are beginning to re-engage and think about rugby union in a positive light again.
MORE PEOPLE ARE WATCHING
At the time, Raelene Castle copped plenty of criticism for knocking back another long-term broadcast deal from Foxtel in favour of testing the open market.
But while she ultimately failed to secure a new home for rugby, she did set in motion a chain of events that lead to new Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan and interim chief executive Rob Clarke signing a $100 million deal with Nine and streaming service Stan.
After what had been a great partnership for many years, sadly the relationship between rugby and Fox had become unworkable, with Fox choosing to consistently highlight rugby's negatives, as they face their own existential crisis caused by streaming and the impact its having on their outdated business model.
The new deal which sees games streamed on Stan and shown on the free-to-air channel GEM, has not only made games more accessible but also strikes back at the "elitist" criticism the game cops regularly.
No longer are only people who pay for TV watching our great game and as more people tune in, I think they're liking what they see.
One set of stats has the average viewership of Super Rugby up 115 per cent, and the Brumbies' round two trouncing of the NSW Waratahs on GEM was up 157 per cent on the corresponding game a year ago (126,000 vs 49,000).
A terrific result despite it being early days for the game on free to air.
Along with games being more accessible, fans no longer have to stay up until 3am to watch their team under the new tournament, which sees South Africa and Argentina drop out in favour of more local derbies.
And while any win in South Africa as a player was one to savour, they never seemed to get the same response from fans back home.
Not like wins over a certain local enemy.
EVERY HERO NEEDS A VILLAIN
As I get older, I'm realising how important stories are and how they can be used to connect people by finding a common ground.
One thing every story needs is a villain, because without him or her the hero can't shine. And as a Brumbies fan or player, there's no greater villain than the Waratahs.
When I finished school, I moved to Canberra from Sydney after being overlooked by the Waratahs, and found a home at the Brumbies. My story is not unique.
Many players forged great careers at the Brums after being told they weren't good enough by their home state, and its this narrative on which Brumbies Rugby was built.
A place that forever gets the best out of people through hard work and selflessness.
My favourite Brumbies story is the one of Pat McCabe and how he was told he was "too slow to play Super Rugby" by the Waratahs. But what Pat lacked in speed he made up for in work ethic and was the bravest player I ever played with.
I guess the Tahs weren't assessing bravery or dedication when deciding if they'd sign Pat, and that narrative drives players every time they face the tweed jacket wearing villains from up the Hume.
One downside of having more eyeballs on the game is more people know of the Waratahs struggles. They've been battered from pillar to post this season. I love to watch them lose by a point, but not by 40 and not every week.
Established more than 140 years ago, NSW Rugby Union has a rich history and it's hard to watch the team responsible for inspiring young players in Australia's biggest rugby catchment perform so poorly.
It wasn't that long ago the Tahs set the Super Rugby attendance record of 61,823 on their march to the 2014 title, and our loss to them the week before was the most physical Super Rugby match I ever played.
On Sunday the rebuild began as coach Rob Penney was sacked, and whether the answer is to just "get the band back together" by re-signing Michael Chieka, Tolu Latu and Will Skelton remains to be seen.
But for the betterment of the game, we need our most notorious villain back wreaking havoc and forcing our heroes to dig deep to overcome them.