The earliest memory I have of the Shepparton News is opening the Kids Page back in the 1990s to see if anyone I knew had made it into the ‘‘Star of the Week’’ segment.
For an eight-year-old, it was like opening a fresh copy of Vogue’s September issue, with every week featuring a young child from across the region who got their photo taken and asked about their hopes and dreams.
I was about nine when I was finally chosen to take part and it was the first time I set foot in the office of The News.
My life’s ambition back then was to ‘‘become a model’’ and Britney Spears was listed as my favourite pop star.
Looking back, I am pretty sure I stress-lied, because I actually hated Britney Spears and never knew the words to any of her songs.
As for the model stuff, I was either delirious, had never looked in a mirror or my mother had put something snazzy in my morning cereal.
Alas, I did not become a model, but a journalist, which is honestly the next best thing in my opinion.
On my journey and consequently the next time I found myself in the office of The News was in 2014 when I interviewed for a cadet journalist position while still at university.
I was interviewed by then editor Jo Breen and Christine Anderson and I left feeling positive and wishing I could be as powerful and stylish as them when I ‘‘grew up’’.
I did not get the job, but was offered an internship for a couple of months and immediately took the exciting offer up in November that year.
Interning at a newspaper, instead of writing for an online music magazine, was incredibly exciting and fast-paced, and cemented my desire to continue the work in future.
The News had left a strong impression on me and I was never one to give up a fight.
Unfortunately, my first journalism job was not at The News, but at a tiny paper in rural Queensland, but I always swore I would find my way back to my beloved hometown rag.
Just less than two years after my stint in Queensland, I received welcome news I had been offered a job at The News and I skipped all the way back down the eastern seaboard.
Christine was still there with her magical curly hair, John Lewis and Geoff Adams too, who had helped me more than they can ever imagine during my internship, as well as the friendly faces of Sionnie Kelly, Thomas Moir, Julie Mercer, Holly Curtis and the forever wise Ray Sizer.
I immediately felt at home on my first day and ready to grow as a reporter and tackle anything new and interesting that came my way.
In my time at The News, I have loved covering stories for the indigenous and refugee communities, health and political yarns, court, police and investigative features, and the odd column where I have complained about accidentally buying $45 bottles of reserve wine.
It has been a fast ride, but one that is sadly coming to an end.
Tomorrow I will file my final stories, log off my computer, clear my desk and walk through the beautiful halls with the indoor gardens for the last time.
Even as I write this, it does not seem real, I can’t help but think that it all came to an end far too quickly.
The News, as I am sure anyone who has worked here will agree, is a place you could stay forever because of the amazing workplace culture and opportunities you are afforded, especially as a journalist.
It will be extraordinarily difficult to leave, but I feel I am finally ready to pursue my life’s calling of becoming a model.
I will be jumping onto the broadcast train.
Fortunately (or unfortunately) for you Shepparton people, I will only be be a hop, skip and a jump down the road at ABC Goulburn Murray, not completely out of your hair yet.
Thank you to everyone for sharing their stories with me, for helping me learn and flesh out the juiciest of stories, and for making this whirlwind worth it.
I have loved every minute.
Rhiannon Tuffield is a journalist at the News.