Sheppard's big gamble pays off at Newcastle Jets

Newcastle Jets signing Kaine Sheppard has revealed how his unusual path to the Hyundai A-League began with a plan hatched in England four years ago. 

Sheppard, 24, has secured a one-year deal with last season's beaten Grand Finalists after starring for Avondale FC in NPL Victoria and the FFA Cup.

The Northamptonshire-born former Leyton Orient striker was playing for English club Histon in 2014 when the growing profile of the Hyundai A-League caught his attention.

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Armed with an Australian passport thanks to his mother, Sheppard took the gamble on a move Down Under with the primary focus of winning a professional contract.

"I heard the football was improving," the ex-Braintree Town man said.

"I fancied a new challenge and just wanted to experience different things. I've enjoyed every minute of it.

"My goal was ultimately to get into the A-League which I've achieved. It’s taken four years but I've managed to achieve it now."

After initially succeeding at Heidelberg United, Sheppard has gone to a new level across two separate stints with Avondale.

In between came a spell at Finnish top-flight side SJK that the one-time team-mate of Harry Kane believes has prepared him for the step-up.

"Going overseas last year to Finland really helped me," he said.

Kaine Sheppard

"Gaining experience there, being in a professional environment and bringing that back to the NPL helped me score that few more goals and deal with a bit of the pressure of the FFA Cup and playing in finals.

"You can see the difference in the fitness levels and the higher intensity [at professional level].

"But it's a pretty high intensity in the NPL and there are definitely lots of players that have the skill and capabilities to be in this environment."

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The objective is now to become a contributor in an entertaining front four which features Roy O'Donovan, Dimitri Petratos and Ronald Vargas.

"They had such a good season last year," the imposing centre-forward added.

"I was watching it on TV and the way their forwards get to play, they get licence to be creative and link up. That really excites me."

Sheppard can begin making his case for minutes when Newcastle meet Western Sydney Wanderers in a pre-season friendly on Saturday.