PAT Travers has tasted victory just twice this season in his return to Peel Thunder, but the fact that they have come away from home against the top-two teams in the competition show the team's ability and now the experienced midfielder knows that stringing those performances together is the key.
Travers began his WAFL career with Peel in 2004 after coming west from Victoria and after winning the 2005 fairest and best, he joined East Perth and over 99 games in the next six years he was an outstanding performer in the midfield for the Royals.
However, the pull of playing closer to home in Mandurah saw him return to Peel this year. Even though he has been in terrific form, the Thunder has won just two games.
But considering the wins came against Swan Districts in Round 5 at Steel Blue Oval and then over Claremont last Saturday at Claremont Oval, Peel clearly is better than its 2-7 record suggests.
Travers played a bit of a different role in the win over Claremont and enjoyed it, and is glad to be back at Peel in 2012 where Bendigo Bank Stadium has undergone a massive transformation.
"It is great to be back. This week I played a bit of a different role and was a bit more defensive, which I didn’t mind. I locked down a little bit on Medhurst in the last quarter to try and give a bit of leadership and support to a lot of the other guys," Travers said.
"The massive change is obviously the facilities. We've now got the best facilities in the comp and that's great. We still have a very young group and our average age is only 21, so I think that if we put games into the younger guys like we are already, then hopefully that will put us in good stead for the next three or four years."
Travers never forgot that it was Peel that brought him over to WA so he always wanted to give something back to the club for that, and now that he is back he hopes to become one of the leaders that helps push the team towards some success.
"I want to give something back to Peel. They were great when I first came across and I want to see the club do well so hopefully I can pass a little bit on to some of the younger guys and see the guys have some success over the next few years," he said.
"I live down in Mandurah and the travel was the main issue. I've still got a lot of good mates at East Perth and really enjoyed my time there, but just the travel and wanting to be a bit closer to home made me want to come back to play with Peel in the end."
Now that Peel has put in a tremendous performance against Claremont, the key is backing it up.
When the Thunder did beat Swans in Round 5, they followed it up with a 73-point loss at home to South Fremantle so Travers knows they must play well again this Saturday against East Fremantle at East Fremantle Oval.
"We've got East Freo next week so they are going to be a tough challenge and then we've got South and East Perth. We've got some good challenges coming up over the last three weeks," Travers said.
"I think we've got a good squad and this was probably the best team we've put out on paper this year, but it doesn’t really matter who we come up against. If we give four quarters of one-on-one footy then I think that's what is going to put us in good stead going forward.
"This will be awesome for the confidence of the boys after losing so many on the trot. We were absolutely disgusting against Claremont last time as well, so this will give the boys a bit of self belief that we can take into the second half of the year and hopefully notch up a few more wins along the way."
Peel had only played Claremont three weeks ago before taking on the Tigers at Claremont Oval. That performance saw the Thunder cough up nine goals to nil in the opening quarter before losing by 76 points.
Travers feels Peel learned a lot from that and it actually helped lead to the win this time around.
"It was good actually having played them only a couple of weeks ago and the boys got a bit of fire in the belly as well after someone wrote in the paper that we were just witches hats for Claremont to run around like it was a training session last time. The focus was on playing man-on-man and taking it quarter by quarter, and it worked for us," he said.
"It was a good win obviously. The focus for this game and in that Swans game that we won was to go man-on-man. We have identified that we play our best footy when we go one-on-one and a couple of weeks back when we last played Claremont we just let them go, and we were too offensive. This time, though, the key was defence first and then attack, and the boys stuck to it pretty well."
Another of this year's recruits James Bristow also returned to the league side against Claremont and did well in the ruck with Mitchell Lleyendekkers taking a break.
The midfield now has good depth and experience with not only Travers, but Brendon Jones, Kristin Thornton, Matt Orzel, Jamason Daniels and even on Saturday Anthony Morabito in there, while the back-line held up against Claremont tremendously also.
"Bristow did well in the ruck I thought. Deks has done a good job all year, but he's young and the coaches wanted to rest his body because he has taken a fair bit on this year. Bristow really stepped up, he's got a lot of aggression, he fires up and he was good for us in there," Travers said.
"We've got some quality through the midfield now, but I think what has separated our wins and losses this year has been when blokes have come in and actually played a role for the team. Jamo was fantastic on Mitchell and BJ is always in and under giving everything, so when we focus on our roles in the team rather than just going to get the footy that's when things work a lot better for us.
"Our defenders this year have leaked quite a lot of goals and in selection this week they went with a pretty experienced back-line. Luffy was fantastic and he's a good kid with a massive future, and then the rest of the guys back there all did a great job and have a good amount of experience now. We just need to keep helping them out when we can to take a bit of the pressure off them."