NZers of the Year Mary Quin and Brendon McCullum showed great courage in doing the right thing.
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We can appreciate the courage and persistence that characterised her pursuit of the radical Islam cleric behind a kidnapping ordeal.
Knowing the right thing to do is relatively straightforward for most people. A more difficult matter is finding the mental strength to do it. When that road is bound to throw up all sorts of trials and tribulations, it is always tempting to take an easier path.
This year's Herald New Zealander of the Year accolade is shared by two people who resisted that temptation and, consequently, gained international recognition for doing what they knew was right.
The most instantly recognisable of the pair is the New Zealand cricket captain, Brendon McCullum. This year, he resolved to act against allegations of match-fixing, an abomination that threatens the game's very credibility. In so doing, he has pitted himself against Chris Cairns, a one-time friend and teammate, in a test that has yet to play out.
In contrast, Mary Quin's trial is at an end, and we can appreciate the courage and persistence that characterised her pursuit of the radical Islam cleric behind a kidnapping ordeal in Yemen in 1998.
Doing the right thing for her meant not simply breathing a sigh of relief that, unlike four other Western hostages, she had survived a fire-fight after being taken hostage by armed and masked militants. Instead, she was determined to bring to justice Abu Hamza al-Masri, the hook-handed, one-eyed man who she believed orchestrated the attack. She tracked him down and confronted him at London's Finsbury Park mosque in 2000.
Subsequently, excerpts of the taped encounter made her the star witness in a Manhattan federal court. Abu Hamza was convicted on 11 terrorism charges in May.
Dr Quin, who heads Callaghan Innovation, a Crown Research Institute, said she never felt afraid of the terrorist mastermind when she was in court with him. "It's more what he stands for that has me concerned," she said.
Half a year later, her words have an ever-greater resonance following the emergence of the Islamic State. Its brutal practices demand a response laden with the type of toughness and fortitude exhibited by Dr Quin.
Brendon McCullum also demonstrated those qualities when he compiled this country's first triple-century against India at the Basin Reserve. His captaincy has also transformed the fortunes of the Black Caps in a relatively short time. But, internationally, it is his stand against match-fixing that has made waves and will continue to do so.
It would have been simple for him to take a different path. He could have kept quiet rather than making a statement to International Cricket Council anti-corruption investigators. In this, he claimed to have been approached by a former top player, dubbed "Player X", who asked him to fix matches. Chris Cairns has conceded that this was a reference to him, but has described the allegations as "despicable lies".
A timeline hints at how McCullum must have wrestled with the issue, not least the probability of a savage backlash. For almost three years following the alleged approach, he declined to report Cairns.
This, after all, was the player who had once been his hero. In time, however, his resolve has grown as, indeed, has the damage to the game from match-fixing.
He will testify at Cairns' perjury trial next year if called. Unequivocally, that, too, is the right thing to do. A stand by someone of his stature is an essential part of putting an end to the practice.
• 2013 Pop sensation Lorde, teenage golf prodigy Lydia Ko and Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton
• 2012 Steven Swart, NZ cyclist whose evidence led to downfall of drugs cheat Lance Armstrong.
• 2011 Richie McCaw, Rugby WorldCup-winning All Black captain.
• 2010 Emma Woods, who forgave the teenage driver of the car that killed her son.
• 2009 Lenny Holmwood, who saved two policemen shot by Napier gunman Jan Molenaar.
• 2008 Austin Hemmings, slain as he helped a woman being attacked; Tony McClean, who drowned trying to save students trapped by flood waters.
• 2007 Louise Nicholas, campaigner.
• 2006 Kevin Brady, Auditor-General; Paula Rebstock, Commerce Commission chairwoman.
• 2005 Jock Hobbs, key Rugby World Cup figure.
• 2004 Dr Peter Gluckman, scientist.
• 2003 Michael King, author.
• 2002 Cliff Jones, police officer.
• 2001 Peter Jackson, film-maker.
• 2000 Rob Waddell, Olympic gold medallist, Lucy Lawless, actor.
• 1999 Michael Joseph Savage, Prime Minister during the 1930s Great Depression (New Zealander of the Century).
• 1996-1998 No awards made.
• 1995 Sir Peter Blake, yachtsman.
• 1994 Aucklanders, for enduring that year's water crisis.
• 1993 Jane Campion, film-maker.
• 1992 David Shearer and Anuschka Meyer, Somalian aid workers.
• 1991 Dame Malvina Major, opera singer.
Bravery and fortitude link heroes over years
Seventy-five years ago, the Herald also departed from its normal practice of selecting one person as its New Zealander of the Year.
On that occasion, the accolade went to the men of HMS Achilles. The 321 New Zealanders who comprised most of the light cruiser's complement were honoured for their part in the defeat of the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee in the early days of World War II. The reception that the crew received during a Queen St march on their return to Auckland a couple of months later confirmed just how richly it was deserved.
It may be difficult now to comprehend the euphoria that greeted the victory at the Battle of the River Plate. But the Achilles, the first New Zealand unit to engage the enemy in the war, had helped provide a morale boost for the Allies in a conflict that had not started well.
There was also considerable pride in the way that New Zealanders had acquitted themselves so well against a more powerfully armed opponent. Thousands of Aucklanders lined Queen St up to eight deep, while others hung out of shop windows.
This morning, that homecoming parade will be re-created. Veterans of the battle will head a 75th anniversary procession down Queen St in four vintage cars. Following them will be 582 Navy sailors, the same number that marched in 1940.
The crowd will not be the same. But the bravery and fortitude that links the crew of the Achilles to Mary Quin and Brendon McCullum remains undiminished.