With pick 18 of the 2021 Draft, the Sydney Swans selected Angus Sheldrick out of Claremont, WA. The undersized midfielder entered the hallowed grounds of the SCG under the tutelage of some of the league’s past and present stars.
During the pre-season, the young Swan spoke to The Inner Sanctum about his football journey so far and his plans for the future in a four-part series named ‘Biding his time’.
Part Three – The sideline of success
After a long few months, he was back in full training and made his triumphant return to the VFL side in a 21-point win over the Sandringham Zebras. Over the next ten games with the reserves side he averaged 23 disposals and five tackles playing primarily through the middle.
It was a role he was happy to play, to build continuity in a professional system while maintaining a high level of consistency. He was enjoying simply being back out on the park and contributing to a successful team.
“It was good, we had a pretty strong team and managed to avoid injuries,” he said.
“The AFL team was going really well as well, so that usually means the ressies are doing well because there’s always boys there who are trying to push into the senior team.
“It was a really strong side, we made finals and that was an awesome experience as well.”
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That consistency gave him moments where he thought he might get another look at the senior level, but couldn’t manage to break into the top flight as they charged towards finals.
Against the Collingwood VFL side in round 21 he knocked on the door with 31 disposals, six marks and six tackles and still couldn’t find a spot. Which he admits was eating away at him, but he understands how it can happen.
“it was frustrating, but all you can do is stay positive and keep knocking on the door,” he said.
“But there’s also an element of the reality of it as well.
“When you’re in a really great club like Sydney is, with such strong players and a midfield that was one of the best in the comp. You’ve got to come to terms with that as well and understand where coaches are coming from when you may not be in the team.
“You need to try not be oblivious and think that everything should just be given to you, and I think that’s something I was pretty good at.”
He was obsessed with finding the elements of his game that needed work, and was constantly talking with coaches about where he’s gone wrong and what needs to be better.
If there were any questions on Sheldrick before the draft, it was his fitness. That’s something he took in his stride and admitted he needed to improve, as well as a few other things.
“There were definitely a few things I had to work on when I got back from my injury. It took me a while to get back to peak fitness for obvious reasons,” he said.
“When you haven’t been running for a while, then you get back into it and try to get back into games. You can’t really underestimate how hard it is to get back into high level footy after being our for a little while.
“I had plenty of things to work on to try get into the senior team, but also they were just so strong that spots were hard to come by.”
When asked what he prioritises when it comes to his own game. The running capacity comes up again. It was a big thing for him last season and something he wants to pride himself on in 2023.
“It’s always fitness, I think everyone can always be fitter so I worked really hard on that.
“Then it was a bit of everything really, game awareness, a few different skills. I tried to make sure I worked on all parts of my game.”Embed from Getty Images
Biding his time in the VFL, Sheldrick admits some days were tougher than others. Every boy in WA grows up wanting to play in the AFL, and he felt that dream was so close yet so far.
He spoke about his struggles with not making the side, and wanting to be a part of what the senior team was building. But as he’s made clear, it wasn’t long before he was back looking at the bright side.
To be a part of a successful squad in your first season isn’t a feeling too many players get. He was just happy to be around a winning side.
“Of course there’s an element of ‘I wish I was there’,” he said.
“But for me, I loved being a part of this group and watching them go about it. Obviously a lot of us boys wanted them to win it as much as they probably did.
“It was just amazing to be a part of, and they were flying towards the end of that season.”
Coming into the finals series, he knew he wouldn’t be able to force his way into the side and accepted his season was most likely over.Embed from Getty Images
With the VFL season finished for the year, he was relegated to being a fan for the last weeks of finals. Sheldrick admits it was a weird feeling to experience again, watching his teammates each week but knowing there was nothing he could do.
Grand Final day was a unique experience, he says the loss washed over him unlike anything he’d felt before.
As much as they look at the Grand Final as a missed opportunity, in the grand scheme of things, it’s just another step in the teams progression.
“You really are a bit of a fan when you’re not playing and just stuck in the stands,” he said.
“You feel bad for the boys that were out there, it was a weird feeling we didn’t really know how to act.
“In the end we just had to reflect on the season we had as a whole, it was an improvement on the season before. That’s all we can really ask for at the end of the day.
“I think the boys that were involved in it [the Grand Final] would have learnt a lot, even us boys that didn’t play gained a lot from just being around the environment and having that experience.”
Read the fourth and final instalment, Part Four: Looking to the Future
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