Peel Thunder had a disappointing 2016 campaign finishing seventh on the ladder with a record of 6 wins 13 losses and one draw. A main strength of the club is that they are very strong in connecting with their community with the current colts list made up entirely of players from the greater Peel and South West region. They also have a new coach with Craig Otto taking the reigns for the 2017 season. Otto has a strong link with the club having been an assistant coach at U16s, Colts and at the Reserves level. He is also a three-time premiership colts coach with the Rockingham Bulls and is a Peel Football League Hall of Famer.
New additions to the squad this season are Brandon Gregory who is a key position player recruited from Eaton Boomers in the South West league. Zachary Moody had to make the choice between Cricket and Football but chose the latter. The winger has impressed the coaching staff with his ferocious attack on the ball. Jackson Perry played U14s and U15s with the club but did not play in the past two years and is highly regarded within the South West football region. Nathan Thomas is another player who has come back to the club after a year off after previously playing U15s and U16s and has also impressed observers with his attack on the ball.
2016 WA U18 representatives Calvin Thorne and Noah Hura were unlucky to not be picked up in the National and Rookie drafts but another season playing senior Footy in the WAFL system will greatly enhance their development as players.
From the Peel Thunder Talent Manager- John Deitz
“We are really encouraged by the shape of the squad this season and think it is the best group we have had for the last 2-3 years. We had over 100 players trialling in the pre-season and we have cut it down to 50. There are 21 boys from the U16 program and a lot of them have been with the program since U14 and therefore have a very good understanding about how we play our Football.
“Aaron Naughton, Jakeb Shine and Michael Stevens spent the summer training with the seniors and we only got them back with us in February. In terms of star performers on the training track, we have been really impressed with Damon Cramer, Lachlan Mitchell, and Jordan Boullineau who played 11 games in 2016 and has stepped up to be appointed as Vice Captain. Lachlan Riley, Durak Tucker and Bradley Oldfield have all been strong performers too.
“We have 8 over-age and 21 bottom age kids this year with the rest of the squad in the in-between age bracket. We have a really good group of U17s and high-end talent with the 18s. We hope to lose some of them to state football throughout the year as our job is to prepare them for the seniors.
“In terms of our new coach Craig Otto, he is very highly regarded within the local community and works really well with the kids. It is really positive to have a local coach from the region coaching the colts.”
Aaron Naughton – Naughton is a calm defender who offers a lot in the area of defensive rebound. Standing at 194cm Naughton will have an important job every week on the key forward of the opposition. Naughton averaged 14 possessions along with four marks in 13 games last year, and while classified as a defender, is very comfortable playing in the forward line and kicked six goals last year and four in one half in Peel’s last practice match. Naughton is seen as the player that will attract the most interest from AFL scouts this year.
Jakeb Shine– Shine is the club captain and has exceptional endurance highlighted by the fact that he ran 15.9 on the beep test at the state talent day. Shine is the reigning best and fairest and averaged 16.5 possessions, four marks and four tackles in 19 Colts games in 2016. While his customary position is across the half back line, Shine can go through midfield and at 188cm is the perfect height to play on smalls and talls. John Deitz said Shine is a pure leader and is one of the best he has seen in junior football.
Lachlan Mitchell– Mitchell is a midfielder who played 18 games last season averaging 14 possessions and kicking 6 goals. Mitchell is a really good endurance runner and strong overall athlete, a composed user by foot and excellent decision maker.
Damon Cramer- Cramer has already demonstrated great resilience after missing out on the U16 program in 2014 as he wasn’t deemed physically ready. Every year since then he has built his body up to the level required. Cramer currently plays as a half forward and has really good hands and strong decision maker with league footy smarts. Averaged 14 possessions, four marks and kicked 7 goals in 14 games in 2016.
All indications are that things are moving in the right direction for the southern coastal club. Once seen as the laughing stock of the competition, it is clear over the past few years that they have got their act into gear. An air of professionalism has come over the club with the link with the Fremantle Dockers being a key factor. The partnership reaped the ultimate award last season when the seniors won their first ever premiership. John Deitz said that the youngsters have learnt so much from that team success and the senior AFL players who play for the club. He also said that kids all across the Peel district will want to play for the Thunder and a key reason for that is the AFL branding. 26 players have made the jump from colts to seniors in the last three years, and the club sees personal development as a key role to success. The club was not satisfied with how they went in 2016 and there is a genuine chance that it can rise up into the top four in 2017.