Angus Sheldrick in his debut against GWS in round one of 2022 (Image: Sydney Swans website; Design: Will Cuckson)

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’.

Make sure to read Part one: Road to the Draft

Part Two – Into the Deep End

Arriving at the club on the east coast, Sheldrick wasn’t sure what to expect out of his first pre-season. His previous years of preparation had all been hampered by injuries, so he was yet to have a full block of summer training under his belt.

Though, he happily admits it was “a good experience”,  as he was able to develop at AFL level and test himself against the benchmark. However, it was “completely different” from any other kind of training that he was used to.

When he didn’t feature in the Swans’ 2021 practice game against the Kangaroos, he couldn’t be sure about where he fell in the side. Some precariously timed illnesses gave him a late surge into the squad and a round one debut that he’ll always be grateful for.

“I wasn’t quite sure where I was at in those final few weeks,” he told The Inner Sanctum.

“It was probably the week of [round one] I got a little inkling [I could be close to the team] and then Chad [Warner] and Jake Lloyd got COVID and they were out for the game and that’s when I had a pretty good feeling that I was going to play.

“I’ve probably got to thank those two a lot for it, I probably wouldn’t have been there if they didn’t both go down. But I think I had a pretty good pre-season and it was a great experience.”

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For Sheldrick, debuting in the Battle of the Bridge against GWS was the best possible start to his career. He’s eternally grateful for the words of advice he received moments before taking the field.

“I remember I got told ‘you only debut once, whatever happens, just try to enjoy it and take it all in’,” he said.

“It was a bit surreal, I don’t remember a whole lot to be honest. I just really enjoyed myself and that’s all the advice I was given before the game.”

Lloyd and Warner were recovered and back into the team for round two against Geelong, but Sheldrick didn’t find himself too far out of the frame. He was named as the medical substitute for one of the most memorable games of the year.

Lance Franklin’s 1000th career goal was a monumental occasion that gave memories fans will cherish forever. Those lucky enough to run out on the ground are etched in history.

For the players, it was a different memory. Chad Warner has the delivery, Dylan Stephens has that first hug, Ollie Florent was walking outside the ground.

Sheldrick was on the bench, but insists he wouldn’t have changed that moment for anything.

“It was a unique experience,” he said.

“I was obviously on the bench with a few of the boys and the coaching staff, but we still got a pretty good look at it.

“To be a part of that game for what it was as well was an awesome experience for my second game at the level.”

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He was out of the team the following week and into the VFL squad to try work his way back. Coming up against Gold Coast he was determined to hit the ground running and earn himself another chance at the senior level.

His plan hit a roadblock when he emerged out of the game with knee problems that resulted in surgery and sidelining him for an unknown period of time.

It was one of the stranger injuries he’d done, he wasn’t convinced there was anything wrong with it at the time.

“There was no real impact or anything that caused it,” he said.

“As the game went on my knee was just getting pretty sore, I was able to play out the game. But for the last half I was limping around and probably wasn’t much use to be honest, I probably should’ve gone off.

“Then the next day it was pretty swollen, I didn’t think too much of it, I’d seen that kind of stuff before. I thought it was just a little knock that would be gone after a day or so.

“But this one didn’t really go away.”

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In just a few weeks, Sheldrick went from a round one debut to limited movement. A drastic change for a first-year player with a competitive edge.

Opening up on the struggles he dealt with, he opens up on what it was like to find himself on the sideline and unable to make an impact. Although it came with plenty of problems, once he accepted the injury he managed to find the positive in the situation.

“[Being injured] isn’t great, it wasn’t great at all,” he said.

“Reminiscing on it, I was lucky to be given that opportunity early on and get a taste of it. Once you’re in the team and playing, being dropped and out of the team is one thing, but being injured and not being able to play any footy is another thing altogether.

“It was really tough, but I think it help me build some resilience and I was able to focus on other parts of my game for when I came back so I could try play some good footy.”

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He took some time to head back home to WA and spend time with family. He spoke about his frustrations with lower-leg injuries and the waiting that accompanies them.

Fortunately he was able to be running after a short break, and slowly start the build back into training loads.

He managed to find an outlet in his study, and showed great maturity in his plans for later in life. He wants to make sure there’s always a backup plan in case something goes wrong.

“I was still at uni, so that was a good outlet,” Sheldrick said.

“I think it’s really important to have something else going on as well as footy, because footy isn’t everything, and you have to take your mind of it somehow.

“I did a lot of study during when I was injured which helped me get through.”

Read Part Three – The sideline of success

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