Year in Review: The Country's Sam "Lashes" Casey struck a chord with readers this year with this impassioned opinion piece championing rural New Zealand and good kiwi bloke Pete Smith.

OPINION: Toyota Hilux's at footy games, big bots down the local, Swandri's, moleskins and red bands.

Firm handshakes, hard edged, loyal, honest and true. A real no bullshit mantra.

That's rural New Zealand.

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Pete Smith is everything that's good about rural New Zealand.

Pete and son Jake were the winners of the fishing trip on the Hauraki Gulf with Marty Banks. They arrived to the big smoke in the afternoon after a half day's work on a sheep and beef farm in the Wairarapa.

First impressions? Good buggers. Pete is a bloke who played a couple of years in the second row for "The Bush", he lives and breathes sport in NZ. Loves the Hurricanes, loves the Pulse and would be lost without his local Martinborough rugby club. However, Aucklanders have this stereotype about country folk that they are behind the times, can't handle the big city and just plain and simply aren't as good as them.

Boy, are they wrong.

It's always been a mystery to me that the people of Auckland think they are better than most. You have a sky tower and traffic jams, settle down a bit.

Put down ya soy latte and stop eating the smashed avocado and take a few notes out of Pete's playbook.

The first of Pete's plays that made me respect the bloke immediately was on the first night, we were at an establishment called Moe's. We'd just been out for a great dinner and a few drinks and were calling in on the way home, we nailed the first round and were keen for another of which Pete insisted on buying. Now this was a "all expenses paid" competition, but Pete wouldn't budge and refused to let anyone else buy.

My two bosses had the company card and let's remember that your standard round in Auckland for 6 people isn't cheap. Didn't worry Pete though, he just shrugged his shoulders, as he so often did, and got the boys a drink anyway. It's these one-percenters that separate the men from the boys.

The second time was on the way back in from fishing, this is something I'll never forget. It was choppy waters, light rain, and a chilly breeze. The rest of us city folk were up the front of the boat undercover or sheltering from the elements grappling onto anything we could as we bashed into the Hauraki Gulf.

I turn and look behind me and here's Pete sitting out on deck, Hurricanes jersey on, face and clothes drenched from sea spray and he just sipped his beer shrugged his shoulders and gave us the look that said he's had far worse. You see, ya just can't coach that. That kind of character isn't found in the hustle and bustle of the Auckland CBD nor the plush suburbs like Remuera or Parnell. It's found in the heart of New Zealand, where a pub, a rugby club and a dairy is all that's considered necessary.

The cherry on top was just brilliant. We got back from fishing and went back to the hotel and agreed we'd meet at a bar in half an hours' time. Unfortunately, I was running below par due to being sea-sick most of the day so I was late arriving at the bar after having my head in the bowl for 20mins.

A beer was on the table waiting for me but I just couldn't stomach it for obvious reasons. When the time came to go to the restaurant for dinner my beer was still there. Now Pete wasn't standing for an unfinished beer , so proceeded to finish the whole pint in 3 seconds flat. I looked around me, people in suits and dresses everywhere drinking all sorts of alternative beverages. But, standing right in front of me was a man who was a long way from home, in the middle of the concrete jungle, beneath the sky tower and all he was doing was just giving the beer the respect it deserves.

But that's not the only thing he was doing. Pete was showcasing everything that's good about rural New Zealand. A place or lifestyle that quite often can be misrepresented. He doesn't make a fuss if his poached eggs aren't runny or if there's a bit of traffic on the motorway. For him if the grass is green, the beer is cold and his rugby team is winning then all is well.

That's Pete Smith.

That's rural New Zealand.