By Tom Barrass
Brad Sheppard will line up for his 200th game against St Kilda on Saturday afternoon at Marvel Stadium. Writing for aflplayers.com.au, fellow Eagles defender and close friend Tom Barrass pens a piece on the All Australian’s companionship, growth, and no-fuss attitude.
It’s not often that the outside perception of a player marries up with what that player is genuinely like.
However, I am proud to say that, in this case, Brad Sheppard is tough, trusted, and well underrated.
Like most young men trying to make champions of themselves in this industry, ‘Shep’ had to learn a hard lesson early in his career.
Coming in as a high draft pick, the pressure to be a star midfielder, or a heroic goalkicking forward was high; internally and externally. But for Shep, this was not his destiny.
Sheppy had played about 50 games when I arrived at the club, shifting between the half-forward flank and the midfield. Unfortunately, though, a young Brad with high expectations and low patience failed to truly find his feet.
He was sent back to the WAFL to earn his stripes, this time in a new spot.
The difference between Shep’s story and the rest of us in managing poor form and high expectations is that he was able to humble himself, put his ego aside and adopt a beginner’s mindset. Things that I dare say were not Brad-esque traits up until this point.
With a fresh outlook on his role and himself, Brad Sheppard was reborn as a no-fuss footballer, unimpressed with his triumphs and unapologetic for his mistakes.
His fierce determination and trust in his ability was the beginning of his presence not only as a 200-game player, but also as a man.
Since that valuable lesson, Sheppy has missed two games; the preliminary and Grand Final in 2018. An experience that would traumatise most.
In his unsuspecting grace, Sheppy believes that every person has their own journey. A testament to the value of previous lessons learned, and the gratitude by which he approaches his life.
“The difference between Shep’s story and the rest of us in managing poor form and high expectations is that he was able to humble himself, put his ego aside and adopt a beginner’s mindset.”
Known to terrorise a raft up, or a day at the races, Shep is one of the boys through and through. A loving friend and willing to listen to anyone, Shep has taken many of the boys under his wing or onto his boat. He genuinely cares about you and you certainly get that impression when dealing with him.
To play in the backline at our club is an honour, and we are very lucky to have had many leaders set a strong culture for the newcomers.
The list of champions is long: (Ashley) McIntosh, (Glen) Jakovich, (Darren) Glass, (Eric) Mackenzie, (Jeremy) McGovern, (Shannon) Hurn.
Each with their own unique identity and style; often the reason for their excellence in the role. Sheppard has a home amongst these names, with his All-Australian selection in 2020 being the nail in the coffin for his champion status.
But most of all, dwarfing his football ability and love for the boys, is Brad Sheppard’s love for his family. And with good reason; what a bunch of people they are.
His father Keith and his mother Rayleen, sisters Sophie and Bri are the strength to his resolve. His partner Ellen sets the bar for excellence and continually challenges him, which we as well as him, are very grateful for.
Sheppy we are all very proud of your achievements, but more so in your journey to becoming your own man. A highly respected and caring man.
Thank you for sharing your crays, sharing your knowledge, and playing your role. Congrats on 200 games mate.