Hanging up the keyboard
A week may be a long time in rugby league, but for me the last decade has simply flown by.
It's often dubbed the Greatest Game of All and I've often pondered that whimsical hyperbolic phrase, first coined by George Lovejoy but embraced wholeheartedly by an entire sport and a legion of fans.
Rugby league is the ultimate reality show, equal parts comedy and drama but always breathlessly entertaining. At times the game has seemingly survived and thrived in spite of itself, but the theatre, the characters and the people, they make it what it is and ensure that it endures.
As I reflect on my 10 years in the game, the biggest takeaway I'll have is the amazing people at all levels of the code. I've had the privilege of working with some of the greatest players the game has ever seen, champions of the game that will be forever mentioned in hushed tones.
I'll never forget experiencing Darren Lockyer's last game at Suncorp Stadium, when he fractured a cheekbone, but pulled himself off the canvas to nail a clutch field goal in golden point in a do-or die semi-final to seal victory for his team. It's a moment etched into folklore, a fitting final act for a brilliant career.
Of course, I was also there when he had his 'Bradman' moment months later. A shanked conversion attempt directly in front of goal on a chilly night at Elland Road in Leeds at the end of the Four Nations Final. It wasn't the final act he deserved. Moments earlier he had managed to kick for himself off the goal posts to score what looked like the best possible rugby league send-off. Until that shanked kick, that was his final act on a league field in his beloved Kangaroos jersey.
It's a funny game.
There was Steve Menzies' fairy-tale finish and that try in the 2008 grand final, Jarryd Hayne's fabled run in the 2009 season, and sharing a 'soundproof' wall with South Sydney coach Michael Maguire when Adam Reynolds scored the most ridiculous of tries against the Roosters to snatch the most improbable of victories. It's a miracle the coach's box didn't fall into the Allianz Stadium concourse that night.
Then of course there was South Sydney's meteoric rise back to the promised land and Sam Burgess' broken jaw, Queensland's never-ending dynasty and the epic Broncos-Cowboys rivalry that was punctuated by Johnathan Thurston's field goal for the ages that sent North Queensland into nirvana.
But as far as pure theatre goes, I can't go past the epic 2013 World Cup semi-final between England and New Zealand at a raucous Wembley Stadium. It's easily the greatest rugby league experience I've ever been fortunate enough to be a part of, at least the greatest atmosphere I've ever felt. It was Shaun Johnson dancing past Kevin Sinfield and breaking English hearts in the final minute of an absolute epic – rugby league at its heart-breaking best.
There has certainly been no shortage of moments over the last 10 years that I've witnessed in person that will be forever with me.
But it's the champion people, not the champion players who truly make the game what it is.
From the tireless volunteers and supporters at the grass roots level all the way to the fans, members and employees in club land and the NRL. Everyone has their own unique story and relationship with the game. It has been an absolute joy travelling around the world and meeting so many people whose only common ground is their love of rugby league. It is a universe unto itself.
During my time in the game I've delivered the JJ Giltinan Shield to the Dragons after a frantic drive from the NRL office on a frenetic Sunday afternoon, accidentally left a wooden spoon in the in-goal of Allianz Stadium just as the Roosters were about to train, helped Johnathan Thurston kick-off the 2008 season atop Sydney's centre-point tower, narrowly avoiding celebratory fireworks, and been in countless crisis meetings from Sonny-Bill Williams' famous midnight walkout to salary cap scandals and everything in between.
I've interviewed everyone and anyone about this great game including prime ministers, rock stars and Hulk Hogan.
But for all that I've done and seen in the game, I'm most proud of the evolution of the women's game and helping to bring to the public consciousness the stories of these incredible players. To see where the game has come from and the direction it is heading is something to behold.
Watching Kezie Apps, Ruan Sims, Sam Bremner and more become household names is something the game can truly celebrate over the last decade.
The stories of players like Steph Hancock and other pioneers before her should never be forgotten. They, just as much as anyone, have blazed the trail for the women's game to prosper and should always be celebrated for their amazing and selfless contribution to the game.
The upcoming Women's World Cup is extremely exciting, but should be seen as the launch pad rather than the finish line for a women's game with endless potential.
When I started at the NRL as a nervy kid in 2007, I couldn't have imagined how this great game would shape my life. Not only the amazing opportunities that it would create, but most importantly the friendships and the people I would meet.
In the grand scheme of things, 10 years working across rugby league is but a set of six. In that time, plenty has changed – including four CEOs and countless coaches – and plenty has remained just as it always has.
I've enjoyed every minute of my time and will continue to support and be a strong advocate for all those involved.
Who knows what next week will bring.