West Coast’s Brad Sheppard has struggled to cement a spot in the best 22 during his four years at the club, but coach Adam Simpson said a decision to play him exclusively off the halfback line is set to help the first-round draft pick discover his best form in 2014.
Sheppard, pick No.7 in the 2009 national draft, played his first game of the season in last week’s win over Melbourne, starting as the sub but replacing injured defender Shannon Hurn early in the second quarter.
In his three quarters on the field, the 22-year-old gathered 17 disposals and showed the poise and polish which had seemed beyond at times him early in his career.
The most games Sheppard has played in a single year is 14, a feat he achieved in his debut 2010 season.
The East Fremantle product missed out on selection in round one this season, but forced his way into the side with a dominant performance in the WAFL.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s game against St Kilda at Patersons Stadium, Simpson revealed he had issued a challenge to Sheppard shortly after arriving at the club last year.
“I did speak to Brad quite early in the pre-season about playing him in one position and not trying to explore,” he said.
“We did speak a lot about flexibility, but I thought with Brad giving him a role as a running half-back would be something where he could really challenge himself over pre-season.
“He's adapted really well and he can play on the wing if he has to, but we've trained him up in this position so he can own that and that's his one-wood so to speak, and then we work on the flexibility once he owns that spot.
“The challenge was there for him (and) he's answered every challenge.”
Sheppard will get another opportunity to show his improvement over the next few weeks, with Simpson earmarking him to replace Hurn while the booming half-back deals recovers from a six-week knee injury.