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Friday, August 3, 2018

Western Derby 48: West Coast Eagles defender Brad Sheppard primed for Michael Walters test

West Coast’s milestone man Brad Sheppard expects to cross paths with Michael Walters in Sunday’s western derby and acknowledges the goalsneak looms as a threat for the Eagles.
Walters has been seconded to Fremantle’s midfield in recent weeks in the absence of injured pair Nat Fyfe and Connor Blakely, but Sheppard stood him when the left-footer was an early casualty with a knee injury in the season’s first derby.
Walters, 27, leads Fremantle’s goal kicking with 20 goals despite missing three games and splitting his time between attack and further afield.
Sheppard, who will play his 150th game on Sunday, said he enjoyed the challenge of being isolated deep on the competition’s elite forwards.
“That is my role,” Sheppard said. “When you are isolated inside 50 you know that a contest lost is going to be a goal against or a score against. You get nervous at times, but it brings the best out in you as well.”
He said harnessing Walters was clearly challenging.
“The way we play we can’t really be locked on to one opposition because you have got to rely on teammates around you with team defence,” Sheppard said.
“There will definitely be stages where I will play on him, but I will get a lot of help and chop out from those around me.
“He has got a lot of speed and agility. I find it pretty tough to keep up with him. He is really dangerous and you give him half a chance and he will damage you on the scoreboard.”
Sheppard admitted it took time to establish himself at the elite level and it was an honour to reach 150 games to earn life membership.
Achieving it in front of family and friends in a derby only added to the occasion, he said.
“It is a great milestone and something I am very proud of,” Sheppard said. “It hasn’t been an easy journey ... fighting a bit of adversity early in my career with form and injury. To string together enough games to become a life member is something that I am really proud of at such a strong club.
“It took me a few years to adapt to the lifestyle and the training regime.
“Being an early draft selection you think things are going to happen straight away and when they don’t, you doubt yourself.”
West Coast are in the frame to take a punt on the latest athlete to turn from basketball to football, with key-position prospect Patrick Bines in the club’s sights as a category B rookie.
Bines, who is 198cm, was spotted at Eagles headquarters yesterday being shown around by list manager Brady Rawlings.


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