O Lloyd Shepherd makes Koehler old news
WHEN the final siren brought an end to 2009, a great weight of expectation was lifted from Albury sground.
The return of Paul Spargo and the arrival of a collection of the l Air Max Shoes eague’s biggest stars at the start of the year had brought confidence but with it came anticipation that Air Max Shoes the second longest premiership drought in the club’s 134 year history would end.
They produced a perfect season and put an emphatic full stop at the end of it on grand final day, ensuring they could attack 2010 with satisfied supporters and the chance to create something special together.
The weight of external expectation was gone.
Except for Lloyd Shepherd.
In the eyes of most followers, Shepherd started 2010 with a very clear objective: replace Jay Koehler.
For most, it would have been a daunting prospect.
Koehler was the Ovens and Murray’s representative full back and was widely regarded as the best key defender in the league.
Shepherd, however, says he was oblivious to the hype.
“Coming from Sydney, I didn’t know a lot about the league and I didn’t really know who Jay Koehler was,” Shepherd said.
Whether or not Shepherd was aware of it, the comparisons to Koehler grew l Air Max Shoes ouder after the new Albury backman suffered an inglorious start to his career in yellow and black.
Opposition forwards from Eastlake and Belconnen kicked big bags against Albury in preseason practice matches and then Marcus McMillan kicked Yarrawonga to victory against Albury in round 1.
But Shepherd’s improvement has followed a sharp upward curve and, with that, the Albury defence has gone on to become the second most frugal in the competition, behind Yarrawonga.
And, as Paul Spargo says, Shepherd has become his defensive rock.
“He’s an integral part of our defence, which at times has been questioned,” Spargo said.
“He’s a quality person and has been fantastic since joining the club.”
Shepherd believes he has improved with each game.
“I’ve been extremely lucky to walk into a team that had just Air Max Shoes won a grand final and (a team) that was so determined to get there again,” Shepherd said.
“I think I’ve improved as the year has gone on and I hope to keeping improving for years to come.
“I’m staying at Albury for at least another year . and at this stage I intend to stay at Albury for a long time.”
A lot of this year’s pre grand final speculation has centred around the question of whether Yarrawonga’s talls can exploit the Albury defence.
Shepherd agreed the Pigeons’ height could be a major factor at Lavington Oval tomorrow but said the Tigers’ tight knit defensive unit aimed to use it to their advantage.
“We got together as a backline and spoke about the game on (Thursday night),” he said.
“Yarra has a lot of big bodies in its forward line so we’ll be trying get the third man up as often as possible and look to blokes like Sam Duck, Luke Packer and even Luke Carroll to provide lots of run and carry the other way.”
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