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Is this the beginning of the end or did the beginning of the end start at the beginning of this year when it was supposed to be the start of the rise?
Or is it simply bad luck?
All Black captain Kieran Read is set to miss the start of next season as he is shortly due to have back surgery. The injury is a prolapsed lumbar disc which he picked up on the northern hemisphere tour.
He missed the final test of the year against Wales in Cardiff because of the injury and Sam Whitelock captained the team.
The prolapsed disc completes what has been a disappointing year injury-wise for Read, who struggled to get anything going.
He came into the season late after recovering from wrist surgery. He had only just started playing again when he broke his thumb in South Africa.
He was declared fit just before the tests against the British and Irish Lions and got through what was a very rugged series.
The Rugby Championship came along and Read probably played his best game of the season in Dunedin, making the break which led to the match-winning try to first five-eighth Beauden Barrett.
But there were always those question marks around Read's play this year. The cutting edge was there occasionally but it is hard to think of a game this season in which he left his mark.
He impressed against the Springboks at Albany but so would the local third grade team, so poor were the men in green that night.
And that leads to the inevitable question - is this the start of a decline for Read?
Read is 32, and has been at the top level for nearly a decade.
Is it possible any more in the brutal gladiatorial warfare which is international rugby these days to play for nigh on a decade?
Richie McCaw did it but, even in the past 10 years, the game has got so much quicker, so much more collision heavy.
Compare the players from 2007 to a decade on and everyone has gone up a level.
Big, fit, toned men locking horns with no quarter given or asked.
There are few roly poly players. Months in the gym and fat fold tests every second day make sure players are chiselled and when they hit, they hit hard.
Read's body may be finding it tough to take all the big hits after all these years.
Tony Woodcock sleepwalked his way through the final two years of his career before ending it at the 2015 World Cup. He got away with it in the front row but it is way harder in the loose forwards.
Read does not have to look far back to see how quickly things can change.
Rugged Rodney So'oialo signed a contract in May, 2009 to stay with New Zealand Rugby for another two years.
But he had simply run out of petrol. Within a couple of months he was gone, replaced by Read, and the Wellington man simply vanished off the international rugby planet.
So'oialo's biggest problem was that he never knew when to put the feet up. He would train on days off. It eventually all caught up with him.
Read now has more miles on the clock than So'oialo had when his body was falling apart.
So is he going to go the same way as his predecessor?
You would think not. He is a wise, silky player who knows his limits.
But Father Time catches up with all men.
Read, and New Zealand rugby, just have to know how fast the clock is ticking.