Rugby Sevens: All Blacks Sevens cult hero Kurt Baker steps down after Dubai tournament

The All Blacks Sevens seem to have lost the services of cult hero Kurt Baker, after finishing third in the 2022 world series tournament at Dubai.

Baker, 34, has been a key contributor to the NZ men's international success for more than a decade, since debuting in 2008, but is probably best known for his double thumbs-up try celebrations and naked photo-bombing, whenever they capture a major title.

Social media has featured him stripping down with a variety of teams and trophies over his career, including the Ranfurly Shield and Mitre 10 Cup with Hawke's Bay, and Commonwealth Games gold medal and World Cup silverware with the national sevens side.

In 2019, he kindly switched places with veteran Sam Dickson, carrying him naked on his shoulders to mark his 50th world series tournament at Cape Town.

"It was just for a bit of a laugh," he told Newshub, after New Zealand's 2018 Sevens World Cup victory at San Franciso. "I have always sort of done something like that if we win something, so thought I better keep up the tradition, given it was a World Cup."

His cheeky ritual spread to netball, when veteran Wendy Frew led Southern Steel to the 2018 ANZ Premiership crown and then retired in a social media post dedicated to Baker.

While no official announcement has been forthcoming, Baker has posted his own Instagram account, simply stating: "It's been a pleasure."

Many of his teammates and Black Ferns Sevens counterparts have acknowledged a "massive shift", along with All Blacks captain Sam Cane.

Baker debuted provincially for Manawatu, then Taranaki, before progressing to Super Rugby for the Highlanders and seven matches for the Māori All Blacks.

In the abbreviated format, he contributed to Commonwealth Games success at Delhi 2010 and Gold Coast 2018, and World Cup triumph in 2013 and 2018, before winning Olympic silver at Tokyo last year.

"Kurt is a phenomenal player, whose contribution to the All Blacks Sevens during his tenure has been outstanding," said NZ Rugby professional rugby and performance general manager Chris Lendrum.

"The success Kurt has had in the black jersey is credit to his work ethic and dedication to the game. We wish him well for his future endeavours beyond the sevens."