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Premiership Swan Shaw to pull the pin at season's end

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Rhyce Shaw of the Swans in action during the 2015 AFL Round 03 match between the Sydney Swans and the GWS Giants at the SCG, Sydney on April 18, 2015. (Photo: Anthony Pearse/AFL Media)
Swans defender Rhyce Shaw will retire at the end of this season
He is an incredibly popular figure amongst the entire playing group
John Longmire on Rhyce Shaw

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SYDNEY Swans premiership defender Rhyce Shaw will retire from the AFL at the end of the year after 16 seasons in the league. 

Shaw has averaged 18 disposals per game this season, and in his usual role as a running defender, has been a solid contributor for the Swans in their up and down year. 

The 33 year-old veteran has played 232 games and was part of the Swans' 2012 flag-winning side, after crossing from Collingwood at the end of 2008.

The Shaw name is an institution at Collingwood. Rhyce and younger brother Heath, now at Greater Western Sydney, are both former Pies, while father Ray and uncle Tony both captained the club, the latter to a drought-breaking premiership in 1990 when he was the Norm Smith medallist. 

Shaw played 94 games with the Magpies after being taken under the father-son rule with pick 18 in the 1999 NAB AFL draft.

The speedster's time in black and white wasn't exactly rosy thanks to a broken collarbone and a knee reconstruction, plus a nightmare Grand Final in Collingwood's loss to Brisbane Lions in 2003.

It was the move to Sydney and the Bloods' famed culture that transformed him from an inconsistent wingman into a dependable defender, and turned Shaw's career around. 

Shaw played 22 games in his first year in Sydney and averaged 24 possessions per game, and reeled off 20+ games in his next three seasons in the harbour city, finishing runner-up in the Bob Skilton medal in 2009 and 2011 (shared with Josh Kennedy), before playing a vital role in John Longmire's 2012 premiership triumph which he says was a career highlight.

"Playing with a group of guys who just got together, we probably weren't the best team, the most skillful team in the competition, but we got together and had one focus, and that was to win the premiership," Shaw recalled. 

"It was a good side to be a part of and I'm very lucky that I was part of that side and got the ultimate success."

The always media-shy Swan says he's happy to be remembered as part of a great club rather than anything he's achieved individually. 

"I'm just an average player who just made the most of it and was very lucky in certain circumstances," Shaw said.

"I probably didn't have a great time at the 'Pies but played in a grand final and came up here and that's probably the best move I've ever made both on and off the field.

"I was playing pretty bad at the Pies, I was very inconsistent and my life wasn't great off the field, I was making poor decisions.

"Coming up here and being part of a footy club that really wrapped their arms around me and bought me into the team and the culture, it's set my life up.

"I think the club as a whole gets the best out of people and I was just one of those guys." 

A second knee reconstruction ruined his 2013 season, but the experienced backman bounced back with 20 appearances last year, and hasn't missed a game this season.

Longmire said Shaw has been a valuable part of the club.

“He has been able to produce at a high level for a long time and remains an important part of our defensive unit. He still has a key role to play for us over the coming weeks and we look forward to seeing his customary run and attack from the backline,” he said.

“Shawry’s impact as a leader has been immense and so many young players over the years have developed under his guidance.

“He is an incredibly popular figure amongst the entire playing group. Humble, loyal, selfless and very funny - he is just a great clubman.'

Barring an unlikely finals meeting, Shaw will share the field with his younger brother for the last time on Saturday when the Swans take on the Giants in the Sydney derby at Spotless Stadium.

Rhyce says he told Heath of his decision on Sunday night and given the banter that's been traded between the brothers over the years, the response of the Giants' star was hardly a surprise.

"He said I probably should have retired last year," Shaw laughed.

"He said to me he's really proud of me and the same with my old man, he sent me a text saying how proud he was of me, and that probably means more to me than anything."