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A load off O'Sullivan's shoulders

After going through some testing times during the past few years Shepparton captain Rhys O'Sullivan finally had something to celebrate on Friday night when the Bears broke a long losing streak.

DAMEN FRANCIS April 29, 2014 3:10am

Rhys O’Sullivan has been tested more than most footballers in the past three years.

The no-nonsense defender captained Shepparton throughout one of the darkest periods in the club’s proud history and finally had cause to celebrate in the wake of Friday night’s drought-breaking Goulburn Valley Football League win against Mooroopna.

‘‘It’s been a long time coming and it’s certainly a great relief for the group to have that first win,’’ O’Sullivan said.

‘‘We’ve been working really hard over summer and it’s good reward for the players, coaching staff and supporters.

‘‘To see the look on players’ and supporters’ faces after the game was a really good feeling and something we haven’t felt for a while.’’

The barren run stretched back to round 16, 2012 and after a 134-point hiding at the hands of Shepparton Swans in round one it appeared the streak was unlikely to end anytime soon.

But the Bears took significant strides against Shepparton United the following week and carried that momentum into the Anzac Day clash with the Cats.

They were rewarded with a deserved win and O’Sullivan admitted a weight had been lifted off the shoulders of the club’s leaders.

‘‘It’s been a massive challenge, one of the hardest things I’ve faced in footy,’’ he said.

‘‘Being the captain of the club you want to be seen to be leading the way and doing the right things and you want to be contributing to the side personally as well, so it has been a bit of a juggling act.

‘‘I’ve learnt a lot not just last year, but the last three or four years I’ve been in the role. Not only knowing the right times to go and speak to your teammates who might be down, but you have to try and keep yourself up as well and that’s been a real challenge.

‘‘I’ve been fortunate enough to have Nick Allan as vice-captain. He’s certainly carried a fair bulk of the workload in the midfield the last three or four years and it’s been good to feed off him and the likes of Sean (Harrap) and Rowan (Hiscock) as well, because they’re also great leaders.’’

The return of players like Tom Thorsen and Will Patone has boosted the playing stocks, but the arrival of experienced coach Brad Campbell was the key acquisition..

O’Sullivan said the belief he had instilled in the young group was significant.

‘‘Brad’s been fantastic from the moment he set foot in the club,’’ he said.

‘‘He works really hard and puts a lot of time into us as individuals and as a team. He’s been really good not only for the younger players, but also for us older players that have been here the last four or five years.

‘‘If players got into any bad habits with training or anything like that he hit it on the head early and the environment has really changed.

‘‘We’ve certainly got a lot of hard work and a long way to go yet, but the players feel we are headed in the right direction and we certainly buy into the game plan that Brad’s got and we can see where we’re going.’’

The Bears meet winless Seymour on Saturday.

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