Sitting on a plane, having a yak to the Prime Minister, heading to the Big Apple after the 2011 election, he made an admission that he would never have admitted just a few months before. Phil Goff would have made a good Prime Minister, John Key conceded.
It was an easy concession to make though considering Key had thumped the Labour leader, who'd lost almost 7 per cent of the party vote along with nine constituency seats.
The bloodied Goff simply said it wasn't their time and of course up against the wildly popular Key, who'd been in office for just three years, it was something of an understatement.
He'd stepped down from the leadership three days later and another three leaders on, Labour's still got the same problem, John Key.
Goff farewelled Parliament for good last night and it was a genuinely fond farewell. He came into the place when Rob Muldoon ruled the sty and for him it's been something of a roller coaster.
The so called schnapps election three years after his arrival, called by Muldoon in an alcohol haze, saw the charismatic David Lange being swept into office, and Phil Goff at 31, becoming the youngest Cabinet minister in our country's history.
As the popularity of Rogernomics began to wane, and with Lange losing his lustre, Goff remained generally supportive of the rambunctious Finance Minister Roger Douglas. After Labour's implosion, and after Mike Moore took the party to its second defeat, and Helen Clark took over, there was still disquiet and Goff showed he had a mind of his own.
Don't be fooled by his ready smile and his easy going nature. He and four others told the low polling Clark in 1996 it was time for her to go. She refused but embraced them, promoting them into senior positions in her shadow Cabinet.
Goff's been called a lot of things in his time. His predecessor in the Auckland mayoralty John Banks once dubbed him Marmite, reasoning that a little goes a long way, while David Lange once referred to him as far-Goff, probably hoping he would.
So the boy who left home at 16, refusing the dictates of his dad who wanted him to become a chippie, and instead putting himself through university is now arguably facing his biggest challenge, getting Auckland back on its feet.
He couldn't do it with Labour but reckons he can do it with our biggest city and at least in his new role, most would wish him well.