SHUKER CROWNED ROCKHAMPTON SPORTS STAR OF THE YEAR
Current Queensland and Australian Men’s Open Captain Gavin Shuker capped an extremely successful 12-month period when he was named the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin/Rockhampton Leagues Club Senior Sports Star of the Year at a glittering ceremony at the Rockhampton League’s Club on Friday 19 October 2007.It was a case of sixth time lucky for the two time World Cup hero who has been nominated five times previously for his home town’s top sporting gong, only to be thwarted by a classy field of outstanding nominees that give rise to the contention that Rockhampton is one of Australia’s top sporting nurseries. The Central Queensland town has produced a plethora of talented athletes over the years from the original ‘Rockhampton Rocket’ Rod Laver, who is the only tennis player in history to win all four Grand slam titles twice, to Olympic Gold Medalists swimmer Duncan Armstrong, cycling’s Anna Meares, and Australian Men’s Hockey duo Jamie Dwyer and Mark Knowles.There have been a host of Junior and Senior world champions across a wide range of sports that have come out of Rockhampton, as well other athletes in professional sports such as National Rugby League stars Rhys Wesser and Matt Sing. Shuker, who has spent his whole life in “Rocky”, was ecstatic to finally claim his hometown’s major sporting award.“I usually rock up every year to the Awards night and go “I’m gooonnnee” … There’s Anna Meares with an Olympic Gold Medal here, and Jamie Dwyer with his Gold medal over there… It doesn’t bother you – it’s just a privilege to be nominated in such great company, and it’s certainly a great field of athletes every year. I reckon I’m fortunate that there were few major sporting events this year and I got lucky for a change,” Shuker said.Despite the self-effacing veteran’s “got lucky” contention, nothing could be further from the truth. Shuker’s ascent to the top Award is the culmination of a stellar year of achievement for the two-time World champion who has excelled at all levels of the game in 2007.The modest 34 year-old achieved one of the biggest honours in the game by captaining Australia to a cherished Federation of International Touch (FIT) World Cup victory in South Africa in January 2007.In an incredible twelve months for the long serving playmaker, Gavin was named joint Flag bearer for Australia at the FIT World Cup Opening Ceremony with four time World Cup champion Amanda Judd and long serving Australian World Cup player and coach Dean Russell.“Shukes” went on to lead the Australian Men’s Open Team to an emphatic 8-5 World Cup final victory over arch rivals New Zealand to bookend his 2003 FIT World Cup triumph in Japan with the Australian Men’s Open Team who have annexed every World Title since the tournament’s inception in 1988 in the 19 year history of the game at World Cup Level.To cap off a wonderful World Cup journey, Shuker was awarded the prestigious Phil Smith Medal as the Australian representative who contributed most to Australia’s retention of the World Cup.The award was voted on by every member of the Australian contingent participating at the 2007 FIT World Cup.Shuker’s impressive catalogue of achievements in 2007 have continued throughout the year with him leading his beloved local club “Buckaneers” to the Rockhampton Men’s Open title, as well leading Central Queensland to their first Men’s Open Grand Final appearance ever in the history of the Queensland Touch State Regional Championships, held just a few weeks ago in Toowoomba.The significance of the Rockhampton Sports Star of the Year Award and the pathway he has traversed in his involvement in the game is not lost on the industrious Australian Captain.“It means that bit more because I’ve managed to achieve on a bigger stage without having to leave home. It’s tougher when you’re from the country. You do have to work that bit harder and you do have to invest that much more effort because the standard of competition isn’t there, so you have to work hard to create it and we’ve done that to a large extent. I see the award as recognition for Touch Football in Rockhampton and Central Queensland, rather than myself,” Shuker said.The popular father of two has been an outstanding role model and mentor to players in the Central Queensland and Rustlers NTL permit catchment areas over an incredible 20 year career in which he has achieved consistent success at Regional, State, National, and International level.Shuker is revered and respected by his teammates and opposition alike for his talent, dedication, passion, will to win, and commitment to achieving his best at all times.Shuker is a tough competitor, but a fine sportsman who wins with humility and takes a loss with class, befitting his lofty standing in the sport.Shuker, a fireman, paid tribute to the role his wife Tanya and his family has played in his rise and rise in the sport.“Tanya and my daughters Nalani and Tahlia mean the world to me. Tanya’s been a rock supporting me and understanding the time I need to invest to achieve the goals I have been lucky enough to reach. That she is an athlete herself is a big bonus for me,” Shuker said.The big hearted Shuker who has invested years of time and effort into developing the standard and individual games of a generation of Central Queensland’s best young players has donated $1000 of his $3000 prize money for winning the Rockhampton Sports Star of the Year to the Emmaus 13 Years Boys Team who won the prestigious 13 Years Boys Qld All Schools Championship Title in Brisbane in October.Shuker’s development efforts have helped to nurture some outstanding talent for the sport with National 18 and 20 Years Youth, Queensland Schoolboy, 20 Years, Mixed and Open Men’s players of the ilk of Dan and Clint Withers, David Zanette, and Damien Moar all benefactors of Shuker’s tactical and technical prowess, and his inspirational leadership qualities.In 2004 Shuker led a Central Queensland (CQ) based “Queensland A” team to a shock Series victory over a touring New Zealand Open Men’s Team in the “Touch Showdown” in Toowoomba, and the selfless number seven continues to be a generous fountain of knowledge and support to the ongoing development and structure of Touch Football in his home region.In the last 12 months, Shuker has given coaching assistance to Rockhampton Junior State Cup and QTA State Junior Championship teams, the Rustlers Women’s 30s Team, and the CQ 18 Years boys team who performed brilliantly with a semi-final appearance at the recent X Blades National 18 Years and Under Championships.Shuker also organized for the Rockhampton Touch Association to host the Australian Men’s Open team’s final training camp before the 2007 FIT World Cup in December last year.This weekend, Shuker will assist National Rugby League identities Matt Bowen, Willie Tonga, and Sonny Bill Williams at a development camp for Indigenous athletes in Rockhampton, again displaying his charitable nature and willingness to assist others to grasp the skills of our sport.Shuker hopes to continue contributing to Touch Football for as long as he is enjoying the game and he feels he has something worthwhile to offer.“I love the game and love doing what I can. I will play as long as it’s still fun and I’m contributing positively. There’s plenty here to keep me busy and it’ll be fun to watch all these young kids develop over the next few years,” Shuker said.With Gavin Shuker running the show you can rest assured that the Aussie Men’s skipper won’t be the last Touch Footballer to be crowned Rockhampton’s Sports Star of the Year.