An Intrust Super Cup stalwart, Ben Shea has played 180 games in the competition during his time with Wynnum Manly Seagulls, Ipswich Jets and Redcliffe Dolphins, but last week, the only number that mattered to him was seven.
Shea completed seven marathons in seven days with thoughts of his mate Rogan Dean inspiring him each step of the way.
The pair previously played together at the Jets, where they forged a strong friendship; however, their paths had crossed years earlier in 2013 at the Seagulls.
For Shea, the way Dean has carried himself and faced up to a major adversity has been an inspiration.
One month ago, Dean was in a horrific motorbike accident that resulted in him having his left foot amputated.
Shea decided to help his mate and show anything is possible by embarking on his marathon challenge and dedicating each one to Dean.
That is 42.2 kilometres, seven times, in one week; or alternatively, 295.4 kilometres in one week. That is about the same as running from Brisbane to Hervey Bay.
“It was kind of crazy how it happened, because I was planning on doing this challenge before Rogan’s accident … but it was crazy how the day (his accident) happened, I was doing a 25-kilometres training run and I was thinking about Rogan during the run," Shea said.
"I don’t run with headphones or anything, so I get all these crazy thoughts going through my head, and I was thinking which other footy players could run a marathon and I thought of Rogan and I was thinking in my head, he is such a freak athlete; he’s so fast, he’s so strong, and he has actually run a marathon before, so I was thinking that.
“And the next day, I got a call from (Ipswich Jets chair) Steve Johnson at the Jets to tell me the accident had happened and it was so crazy how that matched up and how I was thinking about him.
“But during my training, I was thinking, ‘this is so boring, all these training runs, I am so sore’, but I just had to pull my perspective back in a bit and think to myself, I am glad I am able to be out here, able to run these.
“Rogan just lost his foot through no fault of his own, so that helped switch my mindset and when I was starting the first marathon, I just sent him a message and said ‘hey brother, I am dedicating these to you, because everyone thinks seven marathons in seven days is a big deal, but the small bit of pain and adversity that I am going to go through in this short term is nothing compared to what you are going through and overcoming’.
“I just wanted him to know, I didn’t make it public to start off with, I just let him know.
“(With his) mindset, (I said to him) whatever is happening to you now, you are going to take that and be positive and grow moving forward as well, so after every marathon, after every day, I would text him and let him know that I had finished it and he would write back … so it was a good little back-and-forth over the seven days that kept me going and gave me perspective during the whole thing.”
While touched by Shea’s recent gesture, for Dean, the support of his friend has actually been a long-term thing.
“I went to Wynnum when I first came down to Brisbane from Sarina and met Ben Shea there,” Dean said.
“He was completely different... he was proper loose with his lifestyle, but he’s changed his life now.
“We talked a lot last year about mindset and how your perspective can help you face things in your life.”
Little did Shea and Dean know how much those conversations would help in 2020.
“We talk a lot about what you can control and what you can’t control and Ben is fantastic at what he can control and compartmentalising that and getting on with it,” Dean said.
“The pictures of his blisters from running where horrendous, but his mindset was ‘at least I have a foot to have blisters’.
“We have spoken about what we are going to go together at the end of my rehab... we have big plans together.
“I want to do some of the things I have already done, and then I can say I did that before and after my accident.
“Proves there is no barrier.”
Admired for his athletic ability – he has one of the more enviable nicknames in sport, with 'Rogan ‘Guns’ Dean becoming a favourite call for rugby league commentators – Dean’s winding rugby league story resulted in 70 games for Wynnum, Norths Devils and Ipswich, but playing the game didn’t always come easily.
“I took a break and travelled for 12 months and that turned into two years; at the end of 2016 I just fell out of love with football,” Dean said.
“I didn’t play from the last round of 2016 at Norths to Round 7 in 2019 at Jets.
“I went to the US and ran the New York Marathon and came back ready to play league again.
“That’s how I ended up at the Jets with Ben.”
The New York Marathon is one of those things Dean wants to complete again to prove his latest setback is no barrier to achieving your goals – but next time, he wants to do it with his mate Shea by his side.
“We will do it together,” Dean said.
After running seven marathons in seven days, you’d think planning to take part in yet another would be the last thing on Shea’s mind.
However, Shea said there were plenty of kilometres left in the legs yet and he could not wait to take on the new challenge with Dean.
“That’s his mindset … when I said to him I am going to dedicate these to you, he said ‘yeah, as soon as I am ready to go, we will do one together’, that’s his mindset and that pumped me up even more,” Shea said.
“I said to him (I need some time and), ‘I don’t need you beating me in a marathon when, you know, you’ve gone from a hospital bed straight off the couch’, because that’s the kind of freak athlete he is.
“He’ll probably go around me in the crutches.
“(But) we will plan a few things moving forward, that would be cool.”
Rugby league fans can help support Rogan Dean’s GoFundMe page as he continues his road to recovery.