As I head into my first weekend of covering International Rugby, looking back at the journey that has got me to this point reads of hard work and more than a handful of lessons learnt.
Those lessons were of professionalism.
I had to step back from being a fan cheering on my sporting idols to being a balanced, non-biased, professional sports reporter that if nothing else, is there to write about how a team is doing, good or bad.
A lesson I had to learn was that these players, like a Sonny Bill Williams or a Damian McKenzie, are not my ‘mates’, they are professional sportsman and nothing more, in terms of my business or belonging anyway. Mistakes like taking selfies after a training session will be forgiven in the first instance, but as a lady called Kylie Sousa so brilliantly reminded me during my first year covering the Chiefs in Super Rugby, I was there to be a professional, not a fanboy.
I knew how lucky I was to be getting such access to the world of sports media, and that in itself made it so much easier for me to be willing to put the 24-year old fanboy to the side.
Even now I sometimes slip up and get a little loud in the Press Box, but I’ve been telling myself all week to keep myself contained on Saturday night, in fact, right throughout the next few days.
Due to my disability and reliance on others for a lot of the ‘basic’ things a Sports Reporter has to do, I’ve been so lucky at Mitre 10 Cup and Super Rugby level to have been allowed a caregiver to attend all the matches and media sessions with me. I am very thankful for the understanding and allowance of this necessity, so thanks to the Waikato Rugby Union, Chiefs Rugby, and the All Blacks Media Team for taking all of this into consideration.
I’ve learnt so much about sports reporting in the past couple of years. Nearly all of this knowledge has come from getting out there, practicing the craft, making mistakes, and discovering how the best way to report on a match, player, or situation for the platform I am writing for. In my first year of sitting in the Press Box at FMG Stadium, Waikato I would write just a basic overview of a match with some stats of note thrown in for good measure, whereas now I tend to write full ‘blow by blow’ match reports with as much information about what happened out on the field as I can possibly fit in.
The truth is, you spend the entire night on your laptop writing about the things you see taking place in an 80-minute game of rugby, and you edit and refine along the way. By the time you are ready to head downstairs for the Press Conference, your work should be pretty much complete, all you need is a few quotes from a coach or player to add into the article.
This is a formula that works for me, but it took me nearly two years of writing match reports to discover it.
I am to the point now where as a Sports Reporter I feel confident that I can be an asset to a site like LAST WORD ON SPORTS, but the lessons I will learn this weekend as part of the media team covering the All Blacks will be huge, and it is a matter of knuckling down and continuing the hard work, the same formula of writing, and keeping the professionalism as high as possible.
Who knows, this weekend at Eden Park could be my one and only experience of covering the All Blacks, so I will be sure to make the most of it.
I want to thank Kylie Sousa for her kind words last week.