Thunder confident of competitive 2020

Thursday, May 14, 2020 - 1:39 PM by Owen Davies

With the announcement that no AFL-listed players will be able to take part in second-tier competitiions in 2020, Peel Thunder players, coaches and CEO remain confident that Peel will have what it takes to remain competitive.

No access to Fremantle players through the alignment will obviously have a significant impact on the experience and maturity that will be at the disposal at League level for coach Cam Shepherd and pulls into question whether we will have a big enough squad to field a Reserves side.

Despite this, there is real level of excitement amongst the club that the exciting young players, a number of who were making the step up from Colts last season will be able to get a real opportunity to show what they can do.

"We have actually built a really food squad of players and that has been bolstered by our young players that played in a losing Grand Final last year against Claremont. So we have a great vision for the future at Peel. We think we can be competitive, there are a couple of areas that we probably need to strengthen in, but certainly around the ground we would give ourselves every opportunity and probably give players that wouldn't normally be in the side a chance." Shepherd said.

Jackson Merrett who is itching to begin his second WAFL season with the Thunder, belives that the prospect of bringing through younger players will be an exciting challenge and be a testament to the teams fighting spirit to improve.

"I think that's something we will pride ourselves on, our competitive nature. We will be quite young compared to some of the other sides but we have some great talent and we have a good bit of depth. Some of those guys got some experience last year, so it will be good to see them get a few more games under their belt and it can only hold us in good stead for the future, if that's the worst result." Merrett said.

Captain Ben Howlett echoed these thoughts and believes that it will be a great opportunity for not only the younger Colts coming up, but some of the others that have been around and through the alignment would probably be plying their trade through the Reserves.

"I think we'll see a few of our colts underage start to come through, guys like Jackson Knight, James Ewing and even guys who have been around for a few years Haydn Matthews and Matt Bogensperger and guys like that," Howlett said. 

"They were training well before all this happened and were dominating our match play. Some of those younger guys like Michael Randall spent time in the pre-season training at Fremantle too and I know they loved that exposure, and benefited from it when they came back to train with us at Peel."

While we do have a number of talented players that will be able to come in and fill the void, there will still be an obvious need to pick up a few more to top up the squad in case of injury and to keep competition for places within the team. CEO John Ditchburn highlighted this need to find some extra players, saying that there are a number of potential avenues that the club will look down to try and bolster.

"We would look locally first, (interstate players) would be a last option. There are players that have been at the club previously and through the alignment with Freo, that have moved east." Ditchburn said on SportFM.

The prospect of bringing in additional players from interstate also brings with it a financial challenge, which in the current climate will make it tough.

"There are connections already with some players. That may be an option, but that cost has opened many challenging issues now and without a partnership with Freo for this year. We don't get the same grant money as other WAFL clubs, does that now change? We are going to go through all of those things over the next couple days, whether we now become like the other clubs and recieve the same grant money, which would help immensley in getting a couple more players."

Cost will be an issue faced with every WAFL club for the forseeable future, however the prospect of crowds returning to WAFL games before the AFL now opens the door for what could be an amazing renaissance for a competition that has struggled to attract big numbers for a long period.

"I think that's a reason we could start later, because the later we go the more opportunity we have getting crowds. If the AFL can't have crowds, we might be able to get 2-3000 to every game which would be sensational for the WAFL." Ditchburn said.

Whatever the case or form, it will be great to see the footy return as we begin to regain some normalcy in what has been a very trying couple of months