Rocky champ named among game's best of past 50 years
TOUCH: Rockhampton touch maestro Gavin Shuker has been recognised as one of the best to have played the game in Australia in the past 50 years.
He was named in Touch Football Australia's golden jubilee 14-member men's open team at a gala dinner in Sydney hosted by Andrew Voss.
The team is made up of the "elite of the elite” and based on criteria including players' contributions, commitment and statistical data.
When you review Shuker's comprehensive list of achievements, it is easy to understand why he was included.
He has represented Australia a record 87 times and is the only player to have scored more than 100 touchdowns for his country.
He has played at five World Cups - and won four of them - and holds the record for the most touchdowns in a World Cup game - the 11 he scored against Luxembourg in 2011.
He was part of Queensland open teams from 1993 until his retirement in 2009 and has played in countless State of Origin and Trans-Tasman series.
He is a long-serving member of the Rockhampton Touch Association committee and is in his second term as chairman of Queensland Touch.
The modest champion is still coming to terms with what he said was an absolute honour.
"It's unbelievable. To be one of the best 14 over the last 50 years is absolutely amazing,” he said.
"It's crazy when you think about how many people have played the game in that time.
"There's a lot of good players I know that didn't get in so to make the side's an absolute honour.
"I didn't have a clue that I would make it and to hear my name being read out was quite surreal.
"As an individual award, it would be the highest I've achieved in my career. I just don't think you get any better than that.”
Shuker has come a long way since he first started touch as an eager 15-year-old.
"To be perfectly honest, I was hopeless when I first started,” he admitted.
"I really enjoyed it. I did take to it pretty much straight away and slowly got better.
"When I started making rep teams I started seeing the game in a different way and from there I became something of a student of the game.
"It's been a long journey but it's been a lot of hard work.
"When I first started no one was making rep sides from here, now Rocky is considered the hub of touch.
"To make that next level I flew to Brisbane to play with club sides down there to be seen. I won two premierships down there from four seasons and that kind of set me up.”
While Shuker has enjoyed incredible success on the field, the off-field skills he has learned have been invaluable.
"I always say that touch has given me everything in life and I think that sport's one of the best teachers in life,” he said.
"It teaches you social skills, teamwork, respect and determination and it's opened up so many avenues for me.
"I always tell my kids that if you want anything in life it doesn't usually come easy. You have to persist and keep going.
"It's been a long and enjoyable journey for me but it's also been a lot of hard work.”
Whether Shuker makes it to a sixth World Cup this year hinges on the outcome of surgery this week on the ankle he injured while fighting fires at The Caves in November.
"Obviously I would love to be playing in Malaysia in March but it all depends on the operation,” he said.
"I would be playing in the 40s team. It's a bit more social in the older age groups but I just love getting out there and playing the game.”
Shuker enjoys giving back to the game that has given him so much. He has coached hundreds of Rockhampton players, many of whom have gone on to higher honours.
"It's great to see the growth in the kids,” he said.
"I've always enjoyed seeing them get better as athletes and as people.”