Thinking about how to finish my sports writing career at the Herald (hopefully it will be a short hiatus) has given me cause to remember a time when I worked for a national newspaper in London and the office called a reporter covering a football match between two rival north-east clubs.
The reporter was asked to file a "runner" (several paragraphs of run-of-play copy), a standard request when matches were scheduled to finish close to deadline, only to retort with something like: "You can't expect me to file now, this game is far too exciting!"
There are of course no matches to write about due to the coronavirus pandemic which is why I'm leaving the Herald after nearly nine years – comfortably the most enjoyable of my sports writing career.
Please bear with me as I get this self-indulgent nonsense over with, but as there has been no sport of any sort in New Zealand for six weeks this seems as good a time as any to reflect on my favourite events – and I have been lucky enough to attend a few exciting ones in a professional capacity. I think I've managed to fill a few holes on pages in a timely fashion, but that's probably for others to confirm.
• Patrick McKendry: World Rugby's bad look and destructive Aussies - is game in a good place?
• Patrick McKendry: The 'no-brainer' idea to fix the cold and corporate world of rugby
• Patrick McKendry: Funny, thrilling, scary - What I'm missing most about sport right now
• Patrick McKendry: Wishful thinking maybe, but could Dan Carter play for Auckland this year?
Finishes don't come much closer than the All Blacks beating Ireland at Dublin's Aviva Stadium in 2013 thanks to a Ryan Crotty try after the final siren and a sideline conversion (on the second attempt) from Aaron Cruden. The little replacement's kick helped the All Blacks to a 24-22 victory and preserved New Zealand's perfect rugby record against the Irish. Strangely perhaps, it didn't seem to come as a shock to the capacity crowd as the collective belief in the stadium disappeared as soon as Johnny Sexton missed a late penalty which would have put the game beyond doubt.
Another classic ending to a test was the All Blacks coming back to beat the Wallabies in Dunedin in 2017 after being 17-0 down after 15 minutes and 29-28 down after 77. A Kieran Read, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett last-gasp special allowed their team to come back again to win 35-29 in one of the noisiest tests I've attended in New Zealand.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
The relief among the home side and crowd was visceral, almost like it was in 2011 when the All Blacks won the World Cup for the first time in 24 years but that match was a test of endurance rather than a true pleasure and probably doesn't need to be revisited here.
I was lucky enough to attend the last two World Cups as well and while watching the Brave Blossoms capture the attention of not only Japanese fans but sporting romantics everywhere was special, the World Cup in England four years earlier is a personal favourite for its fantastic weather, consistently excellent rugby and a happy and engaging All Blacks team which picked up new fans everywhere on their way to back-to-back titles.
I watched as Joseph Parker won the WBO world heavyweight boxing title in Auckland in late 2016 and saw him lose it two years later in a freezing Cardiff. Before Parker's fight against Anthony Joshua he allowed me, and by extension the Herald's readers, incredible access for which I'll be forever grateful. His training shoes were lined up neatly in a row on a balcony outside his room pointing towards the English Channel, the low-slung Principality Stadium - the fight venue which days later would hold 80,000 fans - visible from another window.
I could go on and would like to, but by far the most special sporting event I covered was the All Blacks v Manu Samoa test in Apia in 2015. It began six days earlier at the airport with the man on the microphone pretending to interview Richie McCaw and Sonny Bill Williams before they had even got off the plane and finished with the players from both teams embracing at the end of what was more than a game of rugby played on a very hot afternoon.
It was a joyful celebration of the All Blacks playing a test in a Pacific Island nation for the first time and the shame of it is it hasn't happened since.
Thanks for reading.