A panel of senior Herald journalists and editors has chosen Mary Quin and Brendon McCullum as our 2014 New Zealanders of the Year.

The two stood out from 10 finalists profiled in the Herald and on nzherald.co.nz this week and from a long list of newsmakers who had singular achievements, made a difference for others or showed particular courage.

McCullum and Quin both stood up when it mattered - he both on and off the pitch, she in an international courtroom.

Our full list of finalists is here.

We've made our choice - now it's your turn.

In this year of years for Brendon McCullum his boldest stand was not taken on the fields of Eden Park, the Basin Reserve or Sharjah, but in a room with anti-corruption investigators.

In doing so, he has pitted himself against Chris Cairns, a man he considered a friend and hero, and who is now accused of lying in court when he said he was never involved in match-fixing.

Read more about our winners here:
2014 New Zealander of the Year: Mary Quin
Editorial: Avoiding the easy path earns award

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It is not an easy topic to broach, but then again, nothing about this saga has been easy, ever since the Herald broke the news that three former New Zealand internationals were being investigated for their role in match-fixing.

Has McCullum, who will likely have to take the stand when Cairns' perjury trial goes to the High Court of London in October next year, ever regretted coming forward and telling investigators that Cairns allegedly twice approached him with a view to manipulating batting spreads?

McCullum pauses, temporarily lost for words.

"How is the best way I can describe this? I'm still strong in my belief that we have to fight corruption," he says. "Corruption and doping are the two biggest challenges professional sport faces and corruption more so because people aren't trying to win - that eats away at the core of sport."

In doing so, McCullum, 33, has exposed himself to a backlash. Cairns' subsequent actions indicate his defence strategy will be to attack the credibility of his accusers. It could get brutal.

"I'll continue to stand up for [the integrity of sport]. I believe strongly in it," McCullum says. "I hope people can understand why I'm doing that. It's not easy and it's opened me up for even more criticism, which I still can't work out. But I firmly believe that's what we have to do. The game's too good to us to let it happen."

The game has been very good to Brendon McCullum in 2014. He has joined Sir Donald Bradman and Michael Clarke as the only players who have scored two double hundreds and a triple century in the same calendar year.

But perhaps more than the match-winning and - in the case of the groundbreaking 302 - match-saving innings, McCullum's year has been defined by the success of his team.

For too long the Black Caps were far too easy to dislike.

They weren't very good but the players carried themselves as if they were entitled to respect.

When they were bowled out for 45 by South Africa in McCullum's first test as captain, New Zealand cricket looked like an implosion waiting to happen.

Less than two years on from that disaster, we are talking about this being a golden era of New Zealand cricket.

The principal reason for that? McCullum.


Brendon McCullum. Photo / Mark Mitchell

It would be easy to point to his at times incandescent batting, but it has been McCullum's ability to galvanise this team into one that plays cricket the right way, that never gives up, which has been most impressive. It sounds trite, but he really has infused the best of our national characteristics into this team: innovative, occasionally daring, never submissive.

It didn't happen by chance.

In the wake of the calamitous 45 all out, McCullum retired to his room, grabbed a beer from the fridge and was soon joined by coach Mike Hesson, assistant coach Bob Carter and manager Mike Sandle.

"We looked at each other and sort of went, 'Well, we've got that out of the way, let's strip everything away and start again.'

"It might sound presumptuous, but we decided that it wasn't important how I wanted the team to look, or the way the coach wanted the team to look, it was how New Zealanders wanted us to play. If we're being honest, at that point the perception of the New Zealand cricket team was that we were over-paid, under-delivering, lazy prima donnas. And I was one of those prima donnas.

"We decided that we couldn't win every game, but what we could do is change the way we played and the attitude towards us and the attitude within the group... Players changed, players' personalities and behaviours started to change.

"We wanted to be known as a team that no matter what situation we were in, we were going to make it bloody tough for the opposition to beat us. That might beat us, and if they outplay us that's fine, but we're going to make it hard.

"We're going to play an attacking style of cricket; in the field we're going to chase the ball to the boundary as hard as we can; you're going to see a team that works incredibly hard off the field; and you're going to see a team that's respectful and even-keeled in their emotions. You see that now with the way Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor celebrate hundreds compared to other teams around the world. Very rarely do we get into confrontations on the field. We want to be known as a team that respects the game, works hard and plays attacking and innovative cricket.

"The country can cop us losing, but they can't cop us being those other things."

Even in the afterglow of glory a caveat remains.

Said Martin Snedden, former New Zealand seam bowler, chief executive and now board member, just a week ago in the Herald: "He's not everybody's cup of tea." McCullum has been criticised for being a slave to T20 mammon, for stopping wicketkeeping, for being arrogant, for being tattooed and, mostly, for being the man who benefited from the axing of Ross Taylor.

He is the most polarising cricketer of his generation - talkback manna.

McCullum has learned to live with the fact that for a certain section of the population, he will just never measure up.

"It is tough, but it's harder on family and close friends. Everyone can say they don't listen to the radio or read the papers, but you're going to hear [the criticism]. I'll listen to it, understand what's going on and then work out what's true, what's not and I won't let it affect me emotionally any more either way.

"People are going to have their own opinions but I've just got to make sure I surround myself with good people and lead the life I want to live, come what may."

McCullum says the public have been very good to him, he's never faced any open hostility. The barbs, he says, mostly come from the media and former players including the particularly toxic Parker Group, led by former New Zealand batsman John Parker.

"I question some agendas. That's the only thing for me I can't work out. Some of the former players who criticise me I've never met, yet they have an opinion of me based on what?

"Even when the team was struggling, what were they actually try to get out of it? I would have thought, as a former New Zealand player, the benefit of the team should be at the forefront of their minds, not pushing someone else's agendas."

It's a rare flash of discord. McCullum is a man at peace with himself now. As the clock winds down on his career, he has finally figured out that it's more important to live up to your own expectations, not others. Of course, close to 1000 test runs in a calendar year helps.

"You dream all these scenarios when you're young, but I had reached a point in my career where I kind of felt like I hadn't nailed it. Now I can look back and, whatever unfolds from here, see that I've had an impact on the game.

"I know I'm never going to go down as a great player but when I do decide to leave the game, at least I'll know I've made a contribution to it.

"I don't think I could have said that before this year."

Our finalists:

• Julie King

• Banapa Avatea

• Professor Jane Harding

• Buddy Harwood

• Nicky Hager

• Sol3 Mio

• Lucy Knight

• Kiwi Ebola nurses

Previous winners:

• 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.