Being born and bred in Sydney, it was little wonder that Perth Power cutter Alex Shepherd gravitated towards rugby league.
Then one day his brother found an advertisement for a local Ultimate club which changed everything.
Alex played rugby league for 11 years but when his brother found that flyer taped to a power pole, the duo decided to venture down to Inner West Ultimate to see what disc sports were all about.
Alex said that one look at Ultimate and he “was hooked straight away”.
“The various complexities of throwing a disc, combined with the athletic demands was the perfect match for a sport and myself,” he said.
“Starting at a social league was great in connecting with a broad range people from the local and surrounding areas.”
Rising through the ranks
Alex quickly made his mark in Ultimate and plays for Sydney club Colony.
He represented the Australian men’s team at the 2012 World Junior Ultimate Championships, was picked for his country again at under-23 level in the mixed team in 2015 and also for the Asia Oceanic Ultimate Championships in 2015 and 2019 and also played for the Aussie men’s team at World Ultimate and Guts Championships in 2016.
But it is the AUL where he has faced some of his toughest competition.
“The teams are full of great athletes who are not afraid to “push the button” with big exciting throws,” he said.
“The coaches (especially the Perth Power) have worked hard to devise structures and get the right rosters to deliver a product which displays Australian mixed ultimate.”
Promoting gender equity
While many sports have come a long way with women’s league and international competition, allowing men and women on the same sporting field remains the final frontier.
It is ground that Ultimate broke a long time ago and the AUL is Australia’s first semi-professional league to have true equity on the pitch.
This equity transcends sport, Alex said, and provides a powerful message on creating better communities.
“Sport is a great tool to improve gender equity in our wider communities,” he said.
“In my experiences, Ultimate and the AUL leads the way in educating people on respectful relationships between both men and women.
“The AUL and its unique ruleset of six vs six on the field allows for equal representation of men and women as leaders which I feel has contributed to many people being empowered and having their own personal development.”
The future of the AUL and Ultimate
At just 25 years of age, Alex has many years ahead of him in the sport.
And he is looking forward to watching the AUL and Ultimate in general will grow here in Australia and around the world.
“I hope there will be equal representation of both men and women athletes in play, statistics and media coverage,” he said.
“I hope that Ultimate will continue to hold true to its core values of spirit of the game. And an Olympic games debut wouldn’t be bad either.”