THE Echuca Moama Sportstar Awards were still in their infancy when Tongala’s Steve Atkins claimed his second senior award.
Already a dominant figure in the world of shooting, Atkins had rapidly become a revered sporting figure within the local community.
A quarter of a century later — and with a list of accolades most could not achieve if they did their career five times over — Atkins made history last week when he became the second member of the Echuca Moama Sportstar Hall of Fame.
Atkins was shocked at the surprise induction. "I'm very surprised, but incredibly humbled,” he said.
“It's very special, something which will mean a great deal to me for years to come.”
On stage receiving his honour, Atkins told of his love not only of competing, but of winning, and how it had driven him throughout his storied career.
“It comes down to a love of the sport,” he said.
“I love the people who are involved, and I really love the competition. I love winning, I love trying to win. It's always about the challenge and I continue to love it now after being involved in the sport for so long.”
And winning is something Atkins has made an incredible habit of during his career.
He has claimed victory at more than 20 state championships across the country, been named to the Victorian state team on more than 20 occasions, and is a 21-time member of the Mackintosh Australian team.
Atkins captained his nation to victory at the 2018 world team championships, twice claimed the Doug Smith medal as the best performed shooter in Australia, and has been voted to both the Victorian and Australian hall of fame.
In a testament to his accuracy, he once shot 1030 consecutive targets at the Australian national double barrel championship — but he was quick to point out to the audience he had missed his 1031st shot and lost the event.
Atkins said the reputation of the sport of shooting within the community was something he has always been proud of.
“We're incredibly lucky,” he said.
“Even when I was a kid, Echuca Clay Target Club was incredibly strong. We've always had some of the best shooters in the country as members of the club.
“It's great for people coming through, if you want to be successful you have to beat the best around to get there. It has moulded me into the shooter I am now, it's helped me to be successful in the sport for as long as I have.”
And Atkins has continued to grow the sport within the community.
Atkins was described on the evening as the sport's local ambassador, someone who has helped a generation of young shooters to be successful, taught countless people how to shoot and has given countless hours to help the club grow.
“They're what excites me the most,” he said.
“We have a great future for the club, there are some fantastic shooters coming through who are going to bring a lot of success for the club.”
But for this night, it was not about anyone but Atkins, and a well-deserved accolade for his incredible career — so far.