Thun­der chases his­tory

Weekend Courier - - Street Watch - Jes­sica Nico

PEEL Thun­der has laid down the gaunt­let as the team to beat in 2018 as they push for a third-straight premier­ship.

The last three sea­sons have marked a mas­sive turn­around for the club, which was a peren­nial cel­lar dweller for the first 18 years of its WAFL ex­is­tence.

Since mak­ing its first fi­nals ap­pear­ance in 2015, Peel has trans­formed from the ‘hunters’ to the ‘hunted’ af­ter be­ing crowned cham­pi­ons in 2016 and 2017.

While the re­tire­ment of onball leader Rory O’Brien will be felt when the club kicks off it’s ti­tle de­fence, it has bol­stered its play­ing stocks with the sig­na­ture of 124-game for­mer Essendon player Ben Howlett, who has re­turned to the club that launched his AFL ca­reer.

Se­nior coach Cam Shep­herd said ev­ery sea­son brought new chal­lenges.

“We are ex­tremely proud to have won back-to-back flags and sea­son 2017 con­sol­i­dated our po­si­tion at the top of the WAFL com­pe­ti­tion, some­thing that we had worked hard to achieve in 2015 and 2016,” he said.

“We ob­vi­ously will have quite a lot of new faces in our side in 2018 and we will con­tinue to drive our play­ers to achieve ex­cel­lence through ac­tions, whilst be­liev­ing that our squad is still de­vel­op­ing and im­prov­ing.

“Rory O’Brien is a ma­jor loss, but we have been re­ally for­tu­nate in get­ting Ben Howlett back from Essendon.”

Shep­herd said the suc­cess of the last two years had strength­ened the AFL-align­ment re­la­tion­ship with the Fremantle Dock­ers, and that fi­nals were firmly in their sights again this sea­son.

“Our aim in 2018 is to win enough games to get into the fi­nals se­ries,” he said.

“We will then re­assess and set more goals. Out team un­der­stands the way we want to play and as long as we play with in­tent we, as coaches, will be pleased.”

Peel Thun­der kicks off sea­son 2018 at Bendigo Bank Sta­dium on March 30 against East Fremantle.

Peel Thun­der’s premier­ship win­ning team.

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