Guy Shepherdson joined the Reds in 2011 after seven-years at the Brumbies, where he earned 70 Super Rugby caps and a Super Rugby title. He brought some much needed front row experience to the Reds and was rewarded with the move when they won the Super Rugby championship in the same year. Making his Wallabies Test debut against Ireland in 2006, Guy went on to earn 18 caps for his country which included selection in the Wallabies 2007 Rugby World Cup squad. Now Guy talks to us about all things rugby.
Name: Guy Shepherdson
Nickname(s): Shep, Pinky
Super Rugby Team: Reds
Representative: Wallabies – 18 Caps
How/Why did you start playing rugby?
I started playing for Easts in Canberra in the under 10’s, I think it was just for a bit of fun with friends on a Saturday morning through winter.
Who has been the greatest influence on your career?
It’s probably not fair to single out one person. Certainly my parents and family have been a huge support throughout my time in rugby. Mum and Dad obviously invested a lot of time and effort carting me around the place to training and games. It must have been a pain at times!
I’ve been lucky to play under a number of great coaches like Knuckles and Ewen McKenzie but Laurie Fisher would have to be the biggest influence on me personally. I was coached by Laurie during my time in the Brumbies Academy, Canberra Vikings and the Brumbies. I benefited significantly from Laurie’s understanding of the game and detailed approach to skill acquisition. Laurie seems to have a knack of getting the best out of people.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Again I have been very lucky to have been involved in some great teams and memorable victories but I would have to say being involved in winning Super Rugby Finals with the Brumbies in 2004 and the Reds last year are both very special. End of season celebrations are always better if a large metal cup is involved!
What has been your biggest disappointment?
I’d have to say playing poorly in the World Cup Quarter Final loss to England in France in 2007. That one still hurts.
Who is the toughest player you played against?
I’ve had the privilege of being shoved around by a lot of different looseheads over the years. Of the guys I’ve played on a regular basis in Super Rugby, Benn Robinson is always a very tough outing at scrum time, and Os Du Randt was pretty intimidating.
What is your favourite stadium to play in?
The atmosphere at a packed Suncorp is pretty hard to top. Other than that, I have always enjoyed playing at Newlands in Capetown. The 40,000 screaming lunatics in there always make for a great game and make it all the more satisfying if you are lucky enough to sneak a win.
What are your thoughts on the Red’s Super Rugby season so far?
It was always going to be a new and difficult challenge entering a season as the reigning premiers. The boys started the season really well but for a period of 4 or 5 games after that weren’t quite at their best. There are probably a lot of reasons but nobody is looking for excuses and the boys have hung tough and showed a lot character throughout. In recent weeks the boys have been repaid for their efforts and are starting to show some form equal to any team in the competition. Nobody is getting carried away but I think if the boys can build on their recent performances, finals and beyond are not out of reach.
Which player has impressed you the most so far?
Tough to choose one but I’ve really enjoyed watching the young back rowers at the Reds, Jake Schatz, Liam Gill and Ed Quirk. They are all very new on the scene but the work rate of these guys has been huge and it’s had a big influence on the performance of the Reds this season. These blokes all compete with a fearless intensity and I’m sure will have long and fruitful careers.
Which team has impressed you the most so far?
The competition this year is as strong and as even as any I’ve seen. Melbourne Rebels beating the Crusaders last week is evidence of that. There are great players in every squad and all teams have played exciting footy at times. I think for mine, the Brumbies have been the most impressive team to date. Free of the burden of external pressure, it has been refreshing to see this young squad playing fearless attacking rugby.
Who do you think are the team to beat this year?
The usual suspects really, Bulls and Crusaders always seem to find a way to get there or thereabouts. But I wouldn’t write off the Reds just yet!
You made your Wallabies Test debut against Ireland during the mid-year Tests of 2006, what did it feel like to run out for the first time?
It feels like a very long time ago now but obviously it was a very proud moment. It was never something I expected to do. The week leading up to it and the game itself are pretty much a blur. There was probably a million things going through my mind but I couldn’t focus on anything. Everything seemed to be happening at 100 miles an hour. Certainly there was a lot of adrenaline and emotion. It’s probably not until later on when you talk to friends and family that you realise you’ve just represented Australia, and that is a very big deal!
What was it like playing in the Rugby World Cup in 2007?
It clearly didn’t end up the way we had hoped but before that I would have to say the World Cup in France was one of the greatest experiences of my life. France is a great place to visit anytime but the buzz around the country during the World Cup was incredible. We were so well received everywhere we went. I remember we had 5000 people and brass band turn up to watch us train. It was great privilege to be involved and an experience that very few would ever have.
What are your plans after rugby?
Life-after rugby is rapidly approaching and I guess I’m in the process of trying to figure that out. I’m just about to complete a communications degree majoring in media studies and Public Relations. I have also spent some time working as an intern at Memery PR Agency in Brisbane which has been great. So I will try and find work somewhere within in those fields. Am always open to suggestions! I am also hoping to do a lot of travelling and spend more time with family and friends.
What advice would you give to kids who dream of playing professional rugby?
I don’t consider myself an expert on anything, especially professional rugby. However, I think it’s fair to say most guys (and girls) start playing because it is fun. So that’s the first thing, but Back Yourself! If you’re good enough, you will be noticed. Having said that, very few players can make it on talent alone so if you’re fair dinkum about it, hard work and discipline are mandatory. It’s also important not to put your eggs in one basket. A balanced lifestyle is healthy. So education and an awareness of the world outside rugby is pretty important too.