Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 1:30 PM

BY: Alex Paull

OPTIMISM and the excitement of seizing the challenge were the two main messages when Peel Thunder officially launched their season on Saturday night.

In front of 200 guests, the launch also marked the first season of Peel’s official affiliation with the Fremantle Dockers, and a host of the Fremantle squad were present on the night

The integration of Fremantle players into the Peel squad remains a big talking point, but coach Cam Shepherd said the process has been seamless.

“One of the issues that I thought would happen would be the integration of the two groups, and I’ve been so impressed with all players in the side wanting to fight for our cause,” Shepherd said.

“They have conducted themselves with real professionalism, but at the same time, it’s been seamless.”

Shepherd said the transition, which many thought may take a little time, had been fast-tracked so quickly that some of the Fremantle players already viewed themselves as part of the Peel unit.

“In the space of two weeks they’ve been very open and willing, to want to play for Peel, and I think that’s going to stand us in good stead as the season progresses.”

Shepherd said the players’ attitude throughout a gruelling pre-season had been extremely impressive, and their work ethic had improved considerably.

“The real want of our footy club to yearn for some modicum of success, so how we manage success is through our effort, and the boys have shown that they’re prepared to put in that effort over pre-season,” he said.

New skipper James Flaherty said he had embraced his new role since taking over from veteran Brendon Jones, and he was excited for the challenge.

He said while it had been a gruelling pre-season, the players were looking forward to testing their mettle against the rest of the competition, starting with a showdown with premiership favourites East Perth next Saturday in what looms as a derby of sorts, given East Perth’s affiliation with West Coast.

The Season Launch also saw players auctioned off in the Players Calcutta Auction, giving supporters the unique opportunity to ‘buy’ their favourite stars, including Fremantle stars.

The auction raised over $13,000, while Boost Juice Mandurah beat over 60 entries to win the Corporate Classic Draw, picking up naming rights to the admission gates on game day with accompanying sign writing, four guests to all PTFC home games, two Platinum Memberships plus much more. Australian Physiotherapy Equipment coming second.

Peel Thunder look forward to seeing everybody down at Bendigo Bank Stadium on Saturday for Rd 1 v East Perth.