AFL Draft: Peel Thunder's picks over the years

Australian football's starry-eyed youngsters will be waiting with bated breath as they hope to hear their name called out during the AFL's National Draft later this month.

The best young guns from around the country will finally realise their dreams of playing at the top level when clubs make their selections during the draft, but before they do, we thought this a good chance to walk down memory lane and revisit some of our local stars who have featured on draft day.

Mandurah's own WAFL club, Peel Thunder, has played a big role in years gone by.

Below, we rekindle some memories of every player the club has contributed via the national draft (excludes rookie and mini-drafts).

Brandon Hill - 1998, pick 10, West Coast Eagles

It was a proud day for Peel Thunder when their first ever draftee landed in the top 10 and was selected by home-state club West Coast. Hill was an extremely good defender at the 1998 under 18s championships, which earned him all-Australian honours for the carnival. The Mandurah football product was part of Peel Thunder's inaugural side and while he was delisted after two years of AFL footy, he returned to the Thunder where he played 145 senior games.

Daniel Wells - 2002, pick 2, North Melbourne

Retiring in 2019 after a horror run with injuries stunted his last seasons in the AFL, Wells remains one of the greatest Peel Thunder products ever produced. Before moving to Collingwood at the end of the 2016 season, Wells was a perennial force for the club that drafted him. He won two best and fairest awards at North Melbourne, where he played 243 of his total 258 games in a career that spanned a total 17 seasons in the league. Wells was only able to conjure the one game with the Magpies this 2019 season, but it was enough to showcase his brilliance as he booted three goals from 11 disposals in a round 10 win over Sydney.

Daniel Wells pictured playing for Collingwood. Photo: AAP/Julian Smith.

Daniel Wells pictured playing for Collingwood. Photo: AAP/Julian Smith.

Farren Ray - 2003, pick 4, Western Bulldogs

Farren Ray became Peel Thunder's second top-five pick in as many years when he was chosen by the Bulldogs at pick four. The midfielder/defender played 75 games with the Dogs before being traded to St Kilda where he became a regular fixture playing 130 games. He was delisted in 2015 and signed with North Melbourne, where he played four matches before retiring with 209 games under his belt.

Paul Bower - 2005, pick 20, Carlton

Injuries hindered Peel's fourth draftee at the AFL level, but Paul Bower still managed to chalk up 70 games across seven seasons with the Blues. He struggled in his early years, but 2009 was a breakout as he took on stronger defensive roles and finished seventh in the club's best and fairest count. He returned to Peel for a season after he was delisted from the Blues at the end of 2012.

Matt Riggio - 2005, pick 28, North Melbourne

Matt Riggio heard his name called eight picks after Bower, joining the Kangaroos as a second-round selection. The small defender debuted for the side in 2007, where he played the first two rounds of the season. He then returned to North's VFL side and wasn't recalled to the seniors until 2008. Riggio has since returned to the WAFL following the closure of his AFL career, winning a premiership with Swan Districts.

Kristin Thornton - 2005, pick 54, Sydney

The third Peel player drafted in 2005, Kristin Thornton was taken by Sydney in the fourth round. Picked up by the Swans in an era of dominance for the club, Thornton didn't break into the side until round eight, 2009 after struggling with injuries. He played just eight games with the club before returning to Peel Thunder and taking out the their best and fairest in 2011. He was named to Peel Thunder's 20-year all-star side in 2016.

Scott Gumbleton - 2006, pick 2, Essendon

Scott Gumbleton's AFL career was derailed by injuries, which kept him from ever consistently getting on the park. He played 17 of his 35 senior games in 2010, but missed full seasons in 2008, 2009 and 2011. He was traded to Fremantle in 2013 where he showed promising pre-season form, but injuries led to him retiring midway through the year without having played a game in purple. Gumbleton was Peel's second player selected with pick two overall, and their fourth top-10 product.

Scott Gumbleton. Photo: The Age/Ken Irwin.

Scott Gumbleton. Photo: The Age/Ken Irwin.

James Hawksley - 2006, pick 38, Brisbane

Chosen in the third round by the Brisbane Lions, defender James Hawksley debuted for the club in round 11, 2008. He went on to play 32 games with the Lions, before being delisted at the end of the 2012 season and returning to the Thunder. He played country footy for Bunbury-based club Carey Park in the South West Football League.

Kyle Reimers - 2006, pick 47, Essendon

A solid selection at pick 47, Reimers booted 69 goals from his 60 games at the Bombers. His career highlight came in round six of the 2011 season, where he booted eight goals against the Gold Coast Suns in a huge victory for Essendon, but he would go on to be delisted at the end of 2012 and spurned Carlton's offer to train with the team in 2013.

Brock O'Brien - 2006, pick 52, Fremantle

O'Brien debuted for Fremantle in the final round of the 2007 season, where he gathered 16 touches and showed plenty of class. However, the 52nd pick in the 2006 draft went on to play just three games for the Dockers before being delisted. He returned to the WAFL level where he became an integral part of East Fremantle's line-up, and has more recently made his way back to the local level winning a premiership at Pinjarra.

Hayden Ballantyne - 2008, pick 21, Fremantle

Arguably the most notable player to come out of Peel Thunder, Ballantyne quickly made a name for himself as a fiery forward with a knack for finding the goals. Joining the Dockers after winning the 2008 Sandover Medal as the WAFL's best and fairest, the goal-sneak became one of the best forwards in Fremantle history, earning all-Australian honours in 2014. His time with Fremantle came to a close with the club deciding not to extend his contract beyond 2019. He has kicked 254 goals from 171 games, and remains on the lookout for another AFL lifeline.

Anthony Morabito - 2009, pick 4, Fremantle

Anthony Morabito was snapped up by the Dockers with pick four and loomed as one of the most exciting youngsters in the league after a blistering rookie year, but injuries crippled his aspirations over the ensuing years. His debut season in 2010 consisted of 23 games and a rising star nomination, but Morabito was delisted at the end of the 2016 season following three tears of his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The midfielder was the second Peel product chosen with pick four.

Aaron Black - 2009, pick 25, North Melbourne

Peel's second draftee from 2009, Aaron Black enjoyed a period of success where he was one of the most in-form tall forwards in the AFL in 2013. His ability to kick consistent bags of goals was a major factor for North Melbourne, but the Eaton Boomers junior fell out of favour in the following seasons and was eventually traded to Geelong at the end of 2016. He played three games for the Cats in 2018 but was unable to hit the scoreboard. Black tried to revive his career nominating the AFL's mid-season draft in 2019, but was not recruited.

Harley Bennell - 2010, pick 2, Gold Coast Suns

Chosen at pick two, Bennell's talent in his early days at the Suns was undeniable. His speed and skill formed a blazing trail as he left opponents in his wake, and he broke out for a monstrous game against Geelong in 2014 going off for 27 disposals and a massive six goals. But off-field incidents saw Bennell traded to Fremantle, where he managed just two games in four seasons as he battled a constant spate of calf injuries. The 27-year-old was released from his contract with the Dockers in mid-2019, as has recently accepted an offer to train with Melbourne in the hopes of resurrecting his career.

Kamdyn McIntosh - 2012, pick 31, Richmond

If you're basing success on premierships (and let's be honest, who doesn't?) then McIntosh is the most successful AFL player on this entire list. The 31st pick in the 2012 draft battled injuries while attempting to make his mark at Richmond in his first few years, but he tasted the ultimate success with the club in 2017 as they defied the odds to record a drought-breaking premiership. He unfortunately missed out on the club's 2019 premiership victory, however, being overlooked by the selection panel.

Josh Schoenfeld - 2015, pick 34, Gold Coast Suns

Schoenfeld entered the league with high praise on his athletic ability and didn't disappoint in his four games in 2016. The running defender debuted against Fremantle in round 18, tallying 19 touches in a classy first showing, but he's since struggled to crack into Gold Coast's best 22, spending the bulk of his time playing for their state-league club in the NEAFL. He is set to be delisted in the wake of the 2019 season, but the Suns have committed to picking him up in the NAB AFL Rookie Draft.

Aaron Naughton - 2017, pick 9, Western Bulldogs

After two seasons of seeing him play at the elite level, it's clear Naughton has the potential to be the best player on this list by the time his career is over. Picked as a defender and shining in that role in his rookie season, Naughton made a switch to the forward line in 2019 with the Bulldogs desperate for an avenue to goal. He didn't disappoint, booting 32 goals and becoming a huge part of the club's push back to finals football. Naughton remains touted as one of the best young players in the AFL, particularly among key position stocks.