Nic White would love to have a few moments back again.
Maybe then the ACT Brumbies would have claimed back-to-back Australian titles. But "bloody hell, we won't talk about that too much".
Because that is just one chapter in another year punctuated by COVID-19, uncertainty, and border restrictions. But the Brumbies and Wallabies scrumhalf has a knack for finding a silver lining.
While club bosses lead the Brumbies across a financial tightrope, vowing to do everything they can to ensure their survival in Canberra, unheralded youngsters have turned into Wallabies starters and a beloved coach is preparing for his last roll of the dice - and he wants to go out a winner.
Here are the biggest headlines from this year and the reasons to get excited about 2022.
BIGGEST STORY OF 2021: It still stings.
Ask White to reflect on the year that was and he goes back to that night in May, when the Brumbies fell victim to a heartbreaking 19-16 loss to the Queensland Reds in the Super Rugby AU final in front of 41,637 at Lang Park. Thirteen men ultimately succumbed to an 85th minute match-winner drowning in controversy.
Referee Nic Berry came under fire with the Brumbies on the wrong end of a 20-8 penalty count. Darcy Swain saw yellow in the 78th minute, and Luke Reimer followed three minutes later. Angus Scott-Young was held up in the 84th minute, but Berry went back and blew a penalty for offside despite there being no signal and no audible call of advantage.
One phase prior to James O'Connor's match-winner, Taniela Tupou was stopped just short of the line. Brumby Mack Hansen was adamant the ball had come loose in the tackle. A bird's eye view suggested as much.
"I thought it was a good season without being great. We were a little bit more consistent in terms of the performances we were putting on the field," White said.
"Obviously we just had those three games that we'd love to have back against Queensland."
BIGGEST SURPRISE OF 2021: Dan McKellar raised a few eyebrows before round one when he said it was only a matter of time before Lachlan Lonergan forced his way into the squad.
Because doing so would have meant Wallabies hooker Folau Fainga'a or Connal McInerney - then widely considered a Wallaby-in waiting before his debut this year - would fall out of the side.
But now Lonergan has four Test caps to his name, he has started a Super Rugby AU final, and he is giving selectors a massive headache because three Wallabies hookers don't fit into one Super side.
Lonergan and McInerney were among a host of Brumbies to break through for their Wallabies debut this year, but outside centre Len Ikitau was the star who shone brightest as he established himself in the gold 13 jersey.
COVID CRISIS: Brumbies chief executive Phil Thomson had moments when he wondered if the club would survive.
Sponsorship dollars are drying up and fans may not have the disposable income to attend games to leave clubs across the sporting landscape preparing to feel the pinch for years to come.
Brumbies chairman Matt Nobbs says this club has survived from year to year without a pool of cash or assets to fall back on, projecting financial losses in the coming years as Rugby Australia prepares to cut funding by 30 per cent.
But the Brumbies are still standing. How long they feel the effects of COVID-19 remains to be seen, but the sooner the club can return to normality the better, because Thomson admits "it's already put a lot of people out of business and we'll be no different if it continues."
THE RETURN OF A FAVOURITE SON:Stephen Larkham only needs two words to sum up his desire to return to the Brumbies: passion and pride. White knows it's not just lip service either.
The club's favourite son is set for a Canberra comeback as head coach on a two-year deal for the 2023 and 2024 Super Rugby Pacific seasons after McKellar joins the Wallabies full-time.
"There's a guy that bleeds Brumbies," White said.
"He is so much of what the club is about, the fabric of the club. We're so incredibly lucky to get not only a guy but a coach of that calibre to come back.
"We'll miss Dan, but if you want anyone to come in, it would be Stephen Larkham. We're in a pretty good position over the next little while. It's a good place to be."
WHO TO WATCH IN 2022: The Wallabies provided the blueprint, now the Brumbies want to take advantage.
Jesse Mogg says he returns from overseas a more complete player, while Chris Feauai-Sautia has all the makings of a human highlights reel with the Brumbies desperate to unlock the potential kept quiet by injury.
"Experience is invaluable, and we're getting a few guys who are pretty experienced in Chris Feauai-Sautia and Jesse Mogg," White said.
"They'll be passing on all of their wisdom and knowledge in pre-season at the moment and there will be a lot of guys who lean on that. I'm sure we'll also use it on the field as well.
"There's two guys who certainly know how to change the game and know about the rigours of a full Super Rugby season which we haven't had for a couple of years now and are now going into. You need guys like that. It's all looking pretty good."
THE LAST DANCE
So much of the narrative will inevitably fall on McKellar's final year in charge of the Brumbies.
To expect him to change his approach heading into his last dance before joining the national set-up on a full-time basis would be a disservice to what got him to this point. As White put it almost 12 months ago, McKellar is "the same every bloody day ... intense and zero to 100".
His taste of the international scene will only add more strings to his bow, and there is undoubtedly a sense among Brumbies players that they want to do it for Dan.
"Confidence is the big one, confidence in knowing what he is doing works. You've seen that in results at the Brumbies over the past couple of years, and also the confidence he knows it's working because he is now working his way up the pecking order in Australian rugby," White said.
"He'll always be intense, but that's what makes him good. I'm sure he'd say the same. One thing Dan has on his side is he sets such high standards on the field, but he is a real character off the field and guys love to play for him. That's a rare trait to have and he's got it.
"Sometimes he can give you a kick, but sometimes he'll give you a cuddle. He's able to be the good cop or bad cop. With such a young team still experiencing things, a lot of the time they'll lean on Dan and he's always there for them.
"I'm still learning and looking forward to learning from him and hopefully making it a successful season for him because he certainly deserves it."
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
Christian Leali'ifano wishes his father could be here to see this.
To see his son inspire a generation and usher in a new era of opportunity as Moana Pasifika's franchise player leading into their Super Rugby Pacific debut and maybe even force his way into Wallabies contention aged 34.
Leali'ifano was 18 when his father Tavita passed away in 2006. Now the veteran playmaker turned down a chance to return to the ACT Brumbies - adamant he didn't want to stand in the way of players like Noah Lolesio, Irae Simone and Len Ikitau - to honour his Samoan heritage for a new team playing out of Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium.
Moana Pasifika joins Fijian Drua as the two new teams in Super Rugby Pacific. The Brumbies host the Drua in round two, before closing out the regular season against Leali'ifano and co.
THE NEXT STAR
As if he wasn't big enough already, Nick Frost is tipping the scales heavier than ever before.
The 22-year-old stands at 206 centimetres tall and now weighs 119 kilograms - "easily the heaviest" he has been - after taking advantage of an intense gym program in Wallabies camp. Now White is backing the towering lock to have a breakout season.
"He's certainly a guy you want to have in your team and not against you. We're pretty bloody lucky he chose to come here when he did," White said.
"Now they've seen the different level of intensity. Frosty saw that and he played some of his best rugby in those games. Due to his good form, he got a taste of the Wallabies set-up.
"He's a pretty exciting player, a second-rower as big as him. He even played six for us in that final which is a position he can easily slot into and change the lineout and things like that. He's as quick as some of our outside backs and he's a bloke who is nearly seven foot tall so that's pretty exciting."
RISING TO THE CHALLENGE
"The small mistakes you get away with in the Australian competition, you just don't get away with against the Kiwis".
It's a brutally honest statement that paints a picture of the gap between Super Rugby sides on each side of the Tasman, but "that's why they are considered a couple of the best club teams in the world".
"We did go over there and one of the standouts was that performance we put in over there in Christchurch against the Crusaders. It's all there for us," White said.
"We're pretty proud of the season we had in the AU, a little bit disappointing in terms of the Trans-Tasman competition in how we performed, but at the same time we were bloody limping through to the finishing line there.
"That's something we need to look at as well. We had a long list of injuries going into that Trans-Tasman, and going forward, the experience for the guys who came in will be invaluable."
THE STATS THAT MATTER
SEASON SUMMARY: Played 15, won eight, lost seven. Super Rugby AU runners-up, sixth in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman.
DEPARTING PLAYERS: Mack Hansen (Connacht), Tom Cusack, Bayley Kuenzle (Western Force), Issak Fines-Leleiwasa (Western Force), Reesjan Pasitoa (Western Force), Reece Tapine (Western Force), Harry Lloyd (Western Force), Archer Holz (NSW Waratahs), Henry Stowers (Moana Pasifika), Solomone Kata (Moana Pasifika), Will Miller, James Tucker.
NEW PLAYERS: Jesse Mogg, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Ed Kennedy, Rod Iona, Hudson Creighton, Cam Clark, Fred Kaihea, Sefo Kautai, Ollie Sapsford.
SUPER RUGBY AU
Round one: ACT Brumbies 27 bt Western Force 11 at Perth Oval.
Round two: ACT Brumbies 61 bt NSW Waratahs 10 at Canberra Stadium.
Round three: ACT Brumbies 27 bt Melbourne Rebels 24 at Canberra Stadium.
Round four: Queensland Reds 40 bt ACT Brumbies 38 at Canberra Stadium.
Round five: Bye
Round six: ACT Brumbies 42 bt Western Force 14 at Canberra Stadium.
Round seven: ACT Brumbies 24 bt NSW Waratahs 22 at Sydney Cricket Ground.
Round eight: Queensland Reds 24 bt ACT Brumbies 22 at Lang Park.
Round nine: ACT Brumbies 24 bt Melbourne Rebels 22 at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.
Round 10: Bye
Qualifying final: ACT Brumbies 21 bt Western Force 9 at Canberra Stadium.
Final: Queensland Reds 19 bt ACT Brumbies 16 at Lang Park.
SUPER RUGBY TRANS-TASMAN
Round one: Canterbury Crusaders 31 bt ACT Brumbies 29 at Christchurch Stadium.
Round two: Waikato Chiefs 40 bt ACT Brumbies 19 at Waikato Stadium.
Round three: Auckland Blues 38 bt ACT Brumbies 10 at Eden Park.
Round four: ACT Brumbies 12 bt Wellington Hurricanes 10 at Canberra Stadium.
Round five: Otago Highlanders 33 bt ACT Brumbies 10 at Canberra Stadium.
2022 SUPER RUGBY PACIFIC FIXTURE
*All kick-off times are in Canberra time.
Round one: Saturday, February 19 - Western Force v ACT Brumbies at Perth Oval, 10pm.
Round two: Saturday, February 26 - ACT Brumbies v Fijian Drua at Canberra Stadium, 2.35pm.
Round three: Saturday, March 5 - ACT Brumbies v NSW Waratahs at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm.
Round four: Friday, March 11 - Melbourne Rebels v ACT Brumbies at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, 7.45pm.
Round five: Friday, March 18 - ACT Brumbies v Queensland Reds at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm.
Round six: Sunday, March 26 - ACT Brumbies v Western Force at Canberra Stadium, 2pm.
Round seven: Saturday, April 2 - Queensland Reds v ACT Brumbies at Lang Park, 7.45pm.
Round eight:Saturday, April 9 - Fijian Drua v ACT Brumbies at TBC, 7.45pm.
Round nine: Bye.
Round 10 (Super Round): Sunday, April 24 - Otago Highlanders v ACT Brumbies at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, 2pm.
Round 11: Sunday, May 1 - ACT Brumbies v Wellington Hurricanes at Canberra Stadium, 2pm.
Round 12: Saturday, May 7 - Waikato Chiefs v ACT Brumbies at Waikato Stadium, 5.05pm.
Round 13: Friday, May 13 - ACT Brumbies v Canterbury Crusaders at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm.
Round 14: Saturday, May 21 - ACT Brumbies v Auckland Blues at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm.
Round 15: Saturday, May 28 - Moana Pasifika v ACT Brumbies at Mt Smart Stadium, 5.05pm.
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