MARTIN Shaw lists winning the Premiership title with Newcastle Falcons as the undoubted highlight of a career which sees him in the Caribbean this week turning out for the British and Irish Lions in the Bermuda Classic.
The Co Durham centre was a 21-year-old prospect when Newcastle lifted their one-and-only league crown in 1998, making eight appearances and scoring two tries.
Shaw, who is now based in Monaco where he works as a personal trainer, said: “The title-winning season was a fantastic year because of all the superstars who were attracted to the club.
“We were stacked with world-class players and I remember playing in one game where we had 15 current full internationals on the field.
“I took it down to 14 by coming on and replacing Tony Underwood!
“At the time I took it for granted and thought ‘wow, this is what life as a professional rugby player is always going to be like.’
“Then two years later when most of the stars had gone it sort of dawns on you that you will never play for a team like that ever again.”
Making 46 Premiership appearances for the Falcons and also helping them to the 2001 Tetley’s Bitter Cup, Shaw then moved to Sale Sharks where his try in the final helped them beat Pontypridd to win the 2002 European Shield.
Moving to Bristol and then on to player-coaching roles with Blaydon and Percy Park, Shaw added: “I still follow their both clubs’ progress on the internet and although I look out for the Falcons’ scores I don’t watch a great deal of rugby on TV any more.”
Delighted by Newcastle’s resurgence this season following relegation from the top flight, he added: “I haven’t seen any of the games yet, but from what I have read they are showing their class in the Championship.
“They should really dominate at that level and that is the way it is proving to go for them.
“Dean Richards is such a legend in rugby who did a similar job as director of rugby at Harlequins, and I hope they do it because they deserve to be a successful club.
“They have a great ground at Kingston Park and the region needs a team in the Premiership.”