Eagle Sheppard reveals AFL turning point

·2-min read

All-Australian defender Brad Sheppard has credited West Coast coach Adam Simpson for helping transform him into an AFL star, saying he wasn't cut out to be a forward.

Sheppard will notch his 200-game AFL milestone when he lines up for Saturday's clash with St Kilda at Marvel Stadium.

The No.7 pick from the 2009 national draft struggled to live up to expectations early in his career, with his stint as a forward failing to bear fruit.

Sheppard has flourished as a permanent defender under Simpson's watch since 2014, with his ability to lock down talls and smalls proving crucial to the team's success.

His hot form was rewarded last year when he won his maiden All-Australian jumper, and he looms as a crucial part of West Coast's premiership assault this year.

"It was pretty hard to crack into the back six early in my career," Sheppard reflected.

"We had a couple of injuries up forward and I put my hand up to play in the half forward line, which opened me up for a bit of criticism because I couldn't get a kick

"It's pretty hard playing forward.

"When Simmo came across, he really wanted me in the back half. He made a great role for myself, it was clear, and I haven't looked back since then.

"So full credit to Simmo and Adrian Hickmott, who was our defensive coach at the time."

Sheppard missed out on the club's 2018 triumph after tearing his hamstring during the finals series.

The 29-year-old says he is feeling for skipper Luke Shuey, who is set for another frustrating stint on the sidelines following his latest hamstring setback.

Shuey has been blighted by a series of soft tissue injuries over the past two years, and the Eagles are struggling to come up with a solution.

"You're feeling for him a bit because it's a bit of the unknown at the moment with his body," Sheppard said.

"It's never easy. In the early part of my career I had a couple of injuries, and rehab is a lonely place.

"But Luke's the ultimate professional, so he'll get his body right."

Goalsneak Liam Ryan produced a mark-of-the-year contender in last week's 37-point win over Port Adelaide, and Sheppard wasn't surprised one bit.

"I'm glad I'm not playing on him, otherwise I'd be on a few footy cards," Sheppard joked.

"He's quiet for the media, but behind closed doors - he knows about his ability. He's a confident kid."