David White was coaching the Northern Districts cricket team in late 1996, teaching a bit of accountancy at Hamilton's St Paul's Collegiate and coaching the school's first XV as well.
But he had ambition, and had applied - and made the final two - for the chief executive's job at the North Harbour Rugby Union.
So when the Wellington Union advertised for a chief executive, White tried again - and was accepted.
It was a job that had something about it White wanted - a challenge. And how. The union was basically broke and the playing side had stagnated since the glory period of the early and middle 1980s.
In fact the union was crying out for a shot in the arm. White, aggressive and intent on getting things back on the right track, was the right man for the time.
But White says the reception he got from acquaintances when he said he had accepted the job was pretty much one-way.
"Wellington was seen as a dead-end street. I was laughed at. When I took the job people told me I was mad," White, now a success as the Auckland Rugby Union's CEO, said.
"Wellington was seen as financially in trouble, with an old ground, and as the perennial under-achievers of New Zealand rugby. But I wanted a challenge and I was excited by it."
White says Wellington Rugby Union chairman Murray McCaw "took a punt" on him, "and I jumped at the opportunity."
One of his very first tasks - he started January 13, 1997, was to produce the annual report for the union's annual meeting. It was a report done on the cheap, because the union couldn't afford anything better - cyclostyled, produced in the office.
"I knew the financials weren't great when I started, in fact I knew it was pretty grim. But on my first day they showed me the overdraft. It was $150,000 and our limit was only $50,000. A challenge all right."
But White admits the timing was good. Super 12 and professional rugby, on a white charger, rode in and saved the Wellington Rugby Union.
"We were lucky. The Hurricanes were very good in Super 12 in 1997, and that saved us financially. Having those big crowds, especially the sellout for that final Brumbies match - that was huge.
"The bottom (profit) line that year was $400,000. And that was a huge turnaround from the $100,000 loss the previous year."
Profit was doubled the next year, thanks to S12 and a one-off payment from the Tenths Trust of $750,000 as part of the leasing agreement. From there, it's all been gold.
The 1997-year wasn't all roses on the S12 front though. Wellington's parlous situation at the start of it had seen the Vikings pairing of Hawke's Bay and Manawatu, maybe the latter more, sniff the chance of getting the Hurricanes base moved north.
"There had been a lot of rumblings amongst the Canes unions about having the base in Wellington. Manawatu and the Vikings wanted the base," White said. "If Wellington wasn't careful, we could have lost the base because the Vikings were very strong in player strength at that time. So it was important that we made Wellington (quickly) strong."
With some hard talking and changes in the administration system, Wellington satisfied its critics from the other unions, the Vikings eventually died, and now everything is ticking over nicely.
But to get Wellington strong, White and the board had to move sharply. They reorganised the office base, produced a strategic plan, hired a fulltime coach and fitness trainer, and set down strong aims.
One was to win the NPC title within three years (accomplished), another to produce home situation where young players could be retained and properly trained and educated (the academy now working well), and the third to negotiate a successful new home at the Railways yards (accomplished).
Murray Mexted suggested former All Black captain Graham Mourie as a candidate for the union's first fulltime coach, and White journeyed to Mourie's Taranaki dairy farm to talk him into it.
"The year 1997 was good financially, the Hurricanes were good, but the NPC was very poor - so we needed to get a fulltime coach like the other big unions had. We sorted out our aims with Graham and produced a strategic plan, which I don't think the union had before.
"It's amazing what happens when you've got a plan, what you can achieve. And coupled with that, I think we recruited very well."
Christian Cullen was the key to that. When the Vikings fell over, Canterbury was knocking at his door. White admits Wellington "paid pretty significant money" for Cullen, but that the player himself had to be commended for his decision because Canterbury was there strongly as well.
White says there were recruitment failures - "there always will be" - but points to players like Jason Spice, David Holwell, Kupu Vanisi, Dion Waller, and Brad Fleming as successes.
"Coupled with a good local core, the Umagas, Tiatias, O'Hallorans etc, they did the job for us."
Then there was Jonah Lomu and the huge impact he had on the new stadium sales.
White took some time off to watch the Rugby World Cup in late 1999, and was shocked to read in English newspapers that Lomu was looking to move to Wellington. He knew nothing about it.
"I hadn't spoken to Phil (Kingsley-Jones) or anyone. When I got back to New Zealand I rang Phil up and said: ‘What's this about Jonah?'
"He said, he's fallen in love with Wellington girl and wants to come to Wellington. Are you interested? I said: Absolutely!"
White says from that stage the deal took very little time to complete, and the payback came even quicker.
"When I went to the World Cup we had sold around 7000 season tickets to the new stadium. The day we announced the Lomu deal the season tickets went mad, absolutely mad."
In fact they more or less doubled to 14,000.
"It was a tremendous boost. That (14,000) has given Wellington Rugby a fantastic financial base," White said.
So that was a bit of luck, but as they say in sport, you make your own luck, and the signs were out there for all to see that Wellington rugby and its scene was being turned around.
The stadium was a major factor. White, McCaw and Paul Quinn negotiated a match-winning deal with the Stadium Trust, and the crowds have kept coming along to make everyone happy.
"It's a fantastic, amazing facility, still the best in the country," says White, one appreciated by that one-of-a-kind breed, the Wellington rugby supporter.
"Their support was typified by the crowd at the homecoming parade for the 2000 NPC team, thousands and thousands o them.. They are loyal, loyal rugby folk. And they are so forgiving, they just keep coming back."
White finished as Wellington's CEO at the end of 2000, just a few days after he purchased a new Wellington house. The Auckland Rugby Union, in the middle of a slump, "tapped" him on the shoulder and made him an offer he couldn't refuse.
Auckland won the NPC in 2002 and the Blues took the S12 in 2003.
Must be a message in there somewhere about the talents of David White.
He did Wellington Rugby proud.