Dominic Rayner can retire satisfied his 20-year innings played a huge part in the make up of representative cricket in the lower North Island.
Marton's former Central Districts, Manawatu and Wanganui allrounder called time on his association-level career when the Furlong Cup campaign concluded with a win against Horowhenua-Kapiti at Victoria Park on February 1. That was after 20 summers at the forefront for the father of one.
The 36-year-old has bathed in the glory as a match winner on many occasions, but has also done the walk of shame with the dreaded Golden Duck beside his name.
However, he has sucked it all up and can now reflect on a stellar career, albeit dogged by injury.
Rayner's journey to the blue cap started in November 1999 when the-then promising teenager got a call from Stu Gill during a Saturday club match asking him to turn up at the next Wanganui team training, just so they could have a look at him.
"They rang the pavilion, on the landline," Rayner recalled.
"Bit different, no cellphones back then. Nowadays, it's whoever can play. Back then, you had to get invited to training.
"I had my first two games as 12th man for Wanganui in January 2000 against Taranaki and Manawatu and in those days if you were named 12th man that was it, you never made the field to play. I finally made my actual debut as a specialist batsman batting No 9 against Hawke's Bay - they looked after the young guys in those days, I was 16.
"I scored four runs and ran all four of them, then moved up the order to No 3 for the second innings and scored 27 not out before they called the game off - it was a first innings win to Hawke's Bay," Rayner said.
While that shaky start was memorable, Rayner's first match he could recall with real pride was a Furlong Cup match against Hawke's Bay in 2004.
"It was the first time Wanganui had beaten Hawke's Bay and then two weeks later I scored my first century at rep level against Horowhenua Kapiti. I was batting at No 10 and we needed 100 runs when I went in - I scored 103 not out. Some days things just click and that was one of those days and was probably my first performance that put my name up in lights at Central Districts."
Around that time Rayner had leaned more toward bowling than batting and claimed six wickets for just 25 runs against Wairarapa Bush.
Those performances helped the young Rayner gain selection with Central Districts A in 2006. He was then signed a contract for the Central Districts Stags in 2007, but only played one match because of injury. That game was against Northern Districts in Gisborne where he was employed mainly as a bowler.
"I racked up 1/90, but the wicket was Black Cap Hamish Marshall and I was pretty pleased about that. I didn't play for the Stags after that because of injury. I did get offered a contract the following year, but couldn't play - I did play for Central Districts A again though."
Rayner, a builder by trade, has been dogged by back injury for much of his career and that, and advancing years, has forced his retirement from representative cricket.
"My back isn't what it should be and hasn't been for sometime. You need full fitness to play at top level."
Some of his biggest wins remain a source of great pride for Rayner, including an innings and seven run victory over Wairarapa Bush in 2011.
"We talked them out of it basically. At tea we asked that they go back in when normally teams would have just shaken hands and ended the game - we bowled them all out. Last year's win over Taranaki as another great victory. We've only ever beaten Taranaki twice.
"Last season Taranaki was 162/2 at stumps and they only needed something like 57 to win [first innings] the next morning. We bowled them out - eight wickets and Ross Kinnerley got six of them."
Rayner also played for Manawatu and won the Hawke Cup in 2009 against Hawke's Bay in Wellington.
"Our first defence of the cup was against Bay Of Plenty and they had [Black Cap] Trent Boult in the team. I was in the team, but had a shoulder injury. We set a Hawke Cup record scoring 689 runs and I was out for a Golden Duck [out first ball faced] - nobody let's you forget those things. Still we won by an innings and it was my last game for Manawatu, again because of injury."
Rayner has nominated two former team mates as the best he has played with during his career.
"Mark Fraser had already played two seasons for Wanganui before I got there and was a big part of my development. We're great mates and he helped me a lot, while Ross Kinnerley is the best bowler I have played alongside and Ben Smith is the best batsman. I also rate Eric Austin who played more than 80 games for Wanganui as my mentor in those early years."
While representative requirements meant Rayner has played Premier 1 club cricket for Wanganui Marist for the last two summers, he still retains his passion for the Marton Saracens Cricket Club has been unrivalled.
"I'm a one-club man and will always support Marton. For the past seven or eight years I have been groundsman rolling the pitches before matches and I will continue to support the club - I'm pretty passionate about Saracens."
He will continue with club cricket and will decide next season if he rejoins the Marton Saracens club side, who no longer have a Premier 1 team, or if he stays with Wanganui Vet Services Marist, with whom he won the Coastal Challenge Cup last summer.