By MITCH RODD

IT will certainly feel strange leaving the Mildura Weekly office for the final time today.

Since beginning my post as a journalist for the region’s leading publication in January 2017, there has been no shortage of stories to tell. And I thank everybody who trusted me enough to put those stories into words to share with readers.

When I was approached about applying for an upcoming opening at the ‘Weekly in late 2016, I was pretty lost.

While I had already linked hands with my beautiful girlfriend, now fiancĂ©e, Alira, outside of that I didn’t really have much life direction.

While I’d had four years as a sports journo under my belt, it had been two years since I had regularly put pen to paper as a sports writer. I still wasn’t sure of myself and my abilities.

Adam Luitjes had been a brilliant sports writer and as a big ruckman, his shoes were hard to fill both literally and metaphorically.

I’m so thankful for the opportunity given to me by Vinnie Rodi and Stuart Mensch, through to John Dooley and now Chris Earl. The mentorship of Grant Maynard was also more than I could have ever asked for.

As with any workplace, it’s the people who sit or stand alongside you that make it worthwhile. That has certainly been the case here and there are so many in the office who I’ll continue to call friends into the future.

Many opportunities opened up as part of this job. I may be 28 now, but I still giggle like a schoolgirl, and then get very nervous at the prospect of interviewing a well-known sportsperson.

Especially from a football point of view, there are too many to name, but as a Geelong tragic meeting Tom Lonergan and Brad Ottens was a thrill, although the accompanying photo I got with them proved just how much smaller I am than footballers.

One of my favourite people to speak to was tennis star, Dylan Alcott. The man is a legend and a true inspiration for everybody out there.

From a local sporting perspective, being able to report on football, netball, cricket, basketball and every other sport that takes place is a real thrill. Everyone has a story to tell, no matter if they think it worthy or not.

Stories that immediately spring to mind as favourites include Courtney Wakefield and her journey from Top Hut Station to playing in the AFLW with Richmond, and Nepalese man Bigyan Nepali, a talented boxer who has made Mildura his home.

While it wasn’t a regular occurrence, being able to dabble in writing about music has also been a great honour.

From reading magazines and online articles about my favourite rock and metal bands over the years, it was something I always had an interest in.

I’m also glad that I have been able to use the platform of the ‘Weekly to help drive the message of mental health awareness.

Regular readers will know I have been pretty open and honest about my experiences with depression and anxiety, and even if just one person has decided to seek some form of support from reading my words, then I’m happy.

Last year was also our first foray into video interviews. While my noggin isn’t exactly a money maker, having the experience of speaking to talent on camera was a great learning curve.

My favourite of those was the Sunraysia Football and Netball League finals series ‘3 Wise Men’, which involved myself and radio mates Pat Silcox and John Hollywood.

Those were great fun and we certainly copped some banter from that title!

There have been many occasions when stress and lack of self confidence got the better of me during this period, and I have to thank Alira, my family and friends and my work colleagues for helping to pick me back up again.

While I might be moving off into a new venture, I’ll still be in Mildura and keeping a keen eye on sport in particular.

And finally I want to thank you, the readers, for your support of the work I have completed. It means the world when you receive positive feedback about your stories.

No doubt you will continue your support for this great publication, as I will, which I feel is heading in a great direction.

The pleasure has been all mine.

Thank you Mitch, for the stories, the friendship and the great times. Best of luck for the next stage of life’s journey from all at the ‘Weekly.