With premiership winning assistant coach James Shepherd settled into life as an nib Newcastle Knights staff member, Knights TV sat down with the newcomer.
Recruited from the Cronulla Sharks, Shepherd admits he jumped at the opportunity to work at the Club ahead of 2018.
“There were many factors involved in coming to the Knights... but mostly sheer opportunity, the vision of the Club and the development of young players,” Shepherd explained.
“It’s an exciting time to see where this Club is going in the next few years and I wanted to be part of that.”
Shepherd was most recently at the Sharks as assistant coach but has also had stints at the Melbourne Storm and Wests Tigers, although he started as a teacher.
“I was a high school PE teacher for a number of years and that has a natural flow over into coaching,” said Shepherd.
“I coached at schools, lower grades in junior rep teams in the Balmain district and I was lucky enough to get a shot at the Sharks in the 20s system.
“I was at the Sharks for seven years and finally finished up there as an assistant NRL coach so I’ve had plenty of different experiences and I’m really looking forward to this one.”
While Shepherd noted similarities between both the Sharks and the Knights, the biggest difference was the experience level within the playing groups.
“The Sharks had a really experienced group, they had numerous players over 200, 300 games and this is a developing group,” he explained.
“The Sharks had a very established roster whereas this one is evolving.
With Round 1 less than two months away, Shepherd admits the challenge now is about fine-tuning player combinations.
“Recruitment has been good, training has been good so it’s about combinations and developing trust and belief in each other and that doesn’t happen overnight,” maintained Shepherd.
“They’re certainly progressing well by all the measurements on the physical side of things and everything we have asked them to do skill wise, they’re moving forward.”
On a personal note, Shepherd grew up in Balmain and has lived in Sydney his entire life but has enjoyed making the move to Newcastle.
“It’s a beautiful city, the beaches and coastline are really nice,” he said.
“The difference between Sydney and Newcastle is quite obvious, the traffic and ques, the hustle and bustle of Sydney is not here.
“The people in Newcastle are a lot more friendly, relaxed and welcoming and the community is great while the city is a really nice place to live and I’m enjoying it.”
Away from rugby league, Shepherd has a keen interest in American football and the differences in coaching structures.
“I like to follow the NFL... I love the intricacies of coaching over there and enjoy following the coaches as much as the teams,” Shepherd explained.
“I'm a New York Giants fan… they had a terrible season but I'm very interested in their methods of coaching and the way they do it because it’s such a specialised sport over there.”