Local stars drive Thunder flag ambition
Peel Thunder coach Geoff Valentine says the club’s local talent has driven their return to the grand final stage.
An alignment partner of Fremantle since 2014, the Thunder won the 2016 and 2017 WAFL premierships with 17 and 15 AFL-listed players respectively on the field, and a lineup including 11 Dockers sealed a place in the season decider with a 24-point preliminary final win over Subiaco last Sunday.
Valentine, who also doubles as a development coach with Fremantle, told Sports Breakfast both clubs preached the importance of system over individual talent.
“Prior to this finals series, it’s not uncommon for us to have six or seven changes in a game,” Valentine said.
“You can’t rely on the Freo listed players. Even the Freo-listed players, a lot of those fellas like Tom Emmett and Hugh Davies, they’re in their first season, so they’re well off being established AFL players.
“The development of blokes like (Jack) Sears, Ben Middleton, Brodie Wemm has been pivotal.
“We need to find the next Blair Bell and the next Ben Hancock. They’ve carried a massive load for a long time and we need these young fellas that are coming through to be our next 100, 150-game players.”
Several players in the AFL mix in the latter part of the season have re-joined the Thunder for their finals campaign, while veterans Nathan Wilson and Travis Colyer have stayed on despite being told at the end of the Dockers’ season that they would not be recontracted.
Valentine said he had never had any issues with the level of buy-in from the club’s Fremantle-listed players.
“Once Freo were out and the non-qualified players were done, it probably made the program a lot easier from my point of view,” Valentine said.
“Wilson and Colyer, you wrap an arm around them at that time, but you’re also pretty strong they need to perform. Their commitment has been enormous.
“We’re all up and about.”
The WAFL’s finals system has seen the Thunder feature in three finals contests while their grand final opponents East Fremantle, who defeated them in the semi final two weekends ago, have played only one game in September, with Valentine saying taking the long way around benefited his group.
“The more footy we can get together, the better,” he said.
“It’s well documented we’re effectively two different programs that come together on a Saturday. To have a month together where the boys are playing, we think the team’s evolved over the last few weeks with a few changes like Wagner going inside that you can’t do in-season.”
“We think the three games has set it up really well. Hopefully we can have a season-peak performance on the weekend.
The WAFL grand final between East Fremantle and Peel Thunder gets underway at 3:20pm on Sunday at Optus Stadium and is being broadcast live on 91.3 SportFM.
IMAGE: Shazza J Photography.