Geoffrey Arnold Shaw
- 526Wallaby Number
Geoff ‘Bunter’ Shaw was a burly, talented and tactically astute inside back who, with his very presence, gave authority to the Wallaby backline for more than a decade. Shaw was punishing in both attack and defence however he had a subtle side to his play with silken hands and surprising finesse. He provided stability to all teams for whom he played and in that sense was invaluable. Shaw was also eminently dependable and completely reliable under pressure.
Born in Kiama on the New South Wales mid-south coast, Shaw was educated at Edmund Rice College, Wollongong. His first representative opportunity came in 1967 when New South Wales Country upset Sydney 13-9 at Chatswood Oval.
In 1969 the Wallabies were in search of a new inside centre after incumbent John Brass had switched codes on a record $30,000 contract to play rugby league with Eastern Suburbs. As a consequence Shaw, aged just 20, was chosen to make his Test debut against Wales in Sydney. That same year Shaw went on his first Wallaby tour, to South Africa and created a big impression. He played in 16 of the 26 games, although his only Test cap was won as a replacement. When the Springboks toured Australia in 1971 they did so having beaten the All Blacks 3-1 in New Zealand a year earlier. It was a tough initiation to international rugby for Shaw. In five of his first six Tests he had played the Five Nations’ winners once and the new unofficial World Champions four times.
When Shaw married in 1972 he and his new bride ventured to South Africa, the British Isles and finally Europe. During that time away Shaw played for Eastern Province in the Currie Cup team and the Junior Springboks. In London, Shaw fronted up for London Scottish and he also enjoyed a game or two in France and Italy. The timing of his absence coincided with some of the Wallabies’ darker days - a lost home series to France, a whitewash in New Zealand and a split series with the ‘might’ of Tonga.
Upon his return, Shaw played in eighteen of the Wallabies' next 19 Tests and was unavailable due to injury for the one match he missed. During that period the signs of a turn in fortune began to emerge and although the 1974 series to New Zealand was lost 0-2 the Wallaby performances were a significant improvement on that shown two years earlier. In 1975 Shaw became the 53rd Wallaby to captain his country when the injured John Hipwell withdrew for the 2nd Test against Japan at Ballymore. One memorable career moment came on the Sixth Wallabies tour to Britain where he captained in three of the five Tests.
In 1977 Shaw moved to Queensland to play under his close friend Bob Templeton. While Australia did not play one international that year he was controversially omitted for both the 1978 home series against Wales and the tour to New Zealand. Rather fittingly Shaw enjoyed a great finale in 1979 when Australia won the Bledisloe Cup for the first time in 30 years.
Geoff Shaw played 27 Tests for Australia, nine as captain, in a wonderful eleven-year international career. Shaw was a total rugby man if not the consummate rugby man.
Shaw won his first Test cap at inside centre alongside Phil Smith in the 16-19 loss to Wales at the S.C.G. He picked up a second cap off the bench when he replaced Smith in the 1st Test, 11-30 defeat to South Africa at Ellis Park.
Shaw and Steve Knight were paired in the centres for Australia’s sole test of the year, the 23-3 defeat of Scotland at the S.C.G.
He started at inside centre in all five Tests, the three home matches against South Africa with Knight and the two away internationals with France alongside David L’Estrange.
Shaw returned from his time abroad to win selection on the nine-match tour of England, Wales and Italy. He played both Tests on the inside of L’Estrange.
Shaw and L’Estrange combined in the centres for all three home Tests against New Zealand.
John Weatherstone joined Shaw in the midfield for all four domestic Tests against England (2) and Japan (2). Shaw became the 53rd Wallaby to captain his country when the injured John Hipwell withdrew for the 2nd Test, 50-25 victory over Japan in Brisbane.
Shaw missed his first Test in two years when a hamstring injury saw him replaced by debutant John Berne for the 3-10 loss to Scotland at Murrayfield. He returned to partner L’Estrange in the 3-28 loss to Wales at Cardiff Arms Park. When tour captain John Hipwell captain suffered a recurrence of his knee trouble in that Welsh test, Shaw assumed the captaincy for the final three internationals against England, Ireland and the U.S.A.
Shaw captained Australia in all five Tests against Fiji (3) and France (2).
The Wallabies did not play a Test match in 1977.
Shaw played his final Test alongside Andrew Slack in the one-off 12-6 Bledisloe Cup win at the S.C.G.