SOCCER STAR: Byron striker Sam Shepherd (right) is ecstatic to have the opportunity to play for the Western Sydney Wanderers U20 team.
SOCCER STAR: Byron striker Sam Shepherd (right) is ecstatic to have the opportunity to play for the Western Sydney Wanderers U20 team. Greg Meek

Northern Rivers teen scores contract

GOLDEN Boot Sam Shepherd's hard work, training and dedication to the beautiful game has paid off with a contract with top team Western Sydney Wanderers.

The 18-year-old from Byron Bay said he's thrilled with the opportunity.

The striker said a lot of his success was due to the "fantastic coaches”, who helped him develop as a player and person.

"Chris my summer league coach gave me the opportunity to trial with the Western Sydney Wanderers,” he said.

"I was fortunate enough to be accepted for the 2018 season.”

Shepard was the Premier League Golden Boot for 2017, and said it had been a long and strenuous but hugely fulfilling journey to be where he was today.

"I was ecstatic when I learned the news, they told me after the last training session,” he said.

"The team there are very supportive and easy to talk to and the club culture at Western Sydney Wanderers is just fantastic and I can't wait to be a part of it.”

Shepherd started off with the Byron Bay Rams at the age of five, then progressed to representative football in Lismore for a number of years while playing for his local club.

From 14 he played a higher level at Palm Beach FC and also with the Byron Bay men's team, helping them get through to round 16 in Newcastle.

Wanderers' National Youth League (NYL) assistant coach Christian Layland said he first became aware of Shepherd when his father Chris put the young man on his radar.

"My father is the coach of Summer Youth League and coached Sam at Byron Bay Rams,” he said.

"He said there's a really good player on the verge, can he come down to Sydney for trial with the Wanderers' NYL squad and we jumped at the chance.”

Layland said the young man trained with the Wanderers' NYL squad for a week in December, where his performance at training, skills and attitude earned him selection in a trial match against NPL1 men's team Sutherland Sharks.

"Sam scored a goal in a 4-1 win and the next day he was offered a spot on the WSW U20s,” Layland said.

"He earned himself that contract. I'm very glad he came down. He's talented, has a great attitude and the potential to be a great player - he ticks all the boxes.

"As a club we saw his potential. He is a very good player and now it's up to him to embrace the training ... if he ... works hard there's no reason why (he can't have) a professional career in the future.”


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