Shepherd upbeat about Peel future

Monday, September 8, 2014 - 12:12 PM by Alex Paull

PEEL Thunder will use the success of fellow alignment club East Perth as a template for future success, following a year where plenty of positives emerged.

The first official year of Peel’s alignment with the Fremantle Football Club was marked by great improvement from a number of key young players, and the Thunder will now use the year as a platform to launch into 2015.

Despite finishing eighth with four wins, the Thunder were competitive in most matches this season, but a combination of injuries and lapses in concentration cost them in a number of games, including twice against reigning premiers West Perth, and South Fremantle.

While there were some heartbreaking losses, the 65-point win against Perth in Round 19 saw the Thunder break a number of club records in what was easily the most dominant performance of the season.

Peel coach Cam Shepherd said the next step for Peel was to fast-track some of the young talent at the club, in the hope that they develop into quality WAFL footballers.

“When we look at our own backyard, players like Brendon Jones, Eddie Dann and Matt Brown have been outstanding, and we’ve seen some great improvement in local kids like Josh Mathers,” Shepherd said.

“We need to fast track our other young players to make them really strong WAFL footballers, and that’s where we are at the moment. If you look at East Perth, they have a real strong core of 10 or so quality WAFL players, and that’s where we have to be.”

The development of young Fremantle talent through the alignment has also been a success, with the likes of Jacob Ballard dominating in the midfield, while Matt Taberner has cemented his spot in a finals-bound side and Hayden Crozier has been impressive in nine games.

The development of Taberner in particular was recognised when he was nominated as the Round 22 NAB AFL Rising Star following a strong performance against Brisbane.

Shepherd said it was proof that the alignment was strong.

“Taberner has been doing it at Peel, and the really positive thing is what he’s been doing at Peel, he’s taken to the next level, and from our point of view that’s the fruits of the alignment, and I know we are as delighted with his development as Fremantle are,” Shepherd said.

“We like to see our young, developing Fremantle players get their opportunity and stay there.”

This year 52 players played for Peel, and Shepherd said the key to the club improving will be the natural improvement from young players such as teenagers Brad Walsh, Dylan Winton and Ben Hancock.

“What we have to do is when we come back, we train hard, we get them stronger and they will become naturally more mature, we will then again educate them with the game plan,” Shepherd said.

“We’re retaining Jones, Dann and Bootsma, so they’re probably our three best mature-age players, and we have to build our base.”

While Shepherd said the expected return of wildcards James Hawksley and Cruize Garlett after injury-interrupted years would also bolster the playing stocks, he said the club would be chasing the best players available to complement the list.

“We want to be fairly aggressive in getting the best quality players available into the club who want to strive to play with an aligned club with the opportunity to go further,” he said.

“We probably need hard-running utility players, blokes who can wing, half back, half forward with outstanding fitness.”

Shepherd said the highlights of the season were threefold for him.

“One has been the development of Brendon Jones and Eddie Dann as quality WAFL players, and Jones coming back and having the standout year he’s had, and Eddie Dann coming back from community footy and playing so strongly for us,” Shepherd said.

“Another has been the development of Matt Taberner and Hayden Crozier into Dockers’ top side, we have to recognise that they have been with us for quite some period of time and they’ve come on.

“And the third highlight has been the opportunity for our local players to perform when they may not have though there was much there due to alignment.”