RHYS Healey is providing Peel Thunder exactly what it has always needed in the form of a quality and experienced midfielder who is dangerous up forward, and the former Melbourne-listed player is glad to have come west to help build up the Mandurah-based WAFL club.
Healey was one of several recruits to arrive at Peel Thunder for the 2011 season as the club attempted to bring in some quality, experienced players to help lead the way and bring through a talented group of youngsters.
Along with Healey, former Sturt forward Ryan Herring, Bendigo Bombers captain James Flaherty and Kristin, Ash and Bryce Thornton have all come into the Peel side this season and are having a massive impact.
While that has only led to one victory so far, a 19-point win over Subiaco in Round 10, the Thunder have been vastly more competitive than last season and could very well have won in Round 7 against Swan Districts and last Saturday night against South Fremantle as well.
One of the major reasons for Peel's turnaround has been the superb form of 21-year-old Healey. After growing up in Bendigo and playing with Eaglehawk, he spent the last two seasons with Melbourne in the AFL before feeling a fresh change was in order upon his delisting.
He has had an immediate impact with the Thunder both as a damaging midfielder and dangerous forward. He has averaged almost 19 possessions a game and kicked 16 goals in nine WAFL matches to date.
Healey has so far been reasonably pleased with his form and likes the role of playing in the middle and then resting forward. He's especially happy with how the midfield is coming along with the likes of Kristin Thornton, Kieran Butcher, Brendon Jones and young ruckman Phil Pohlenz-Saw.
"I'm not going too bad and I still think I'm finding my feet, but my fitness is good and I'm feeling all right. I seem to be getting better each week like the team, and I just have to keep working hard at training and doing all that sort of stuff," Healey said.
"I played most of my junior career up forward, but I'd like to mainly be in the midfield and then press forward when I'm going for a rest. We have a really good up and coming midfield, though, and it's just really good to be part of it.
"Because we are a new midfield group we are sort of learning how each other plays and with Phil coming in as the ruckman he has been doing really well. I think we are improving in all areas now."
Even though it was a good performance and the Thunder were still a real chance even in the dying stages, the fact that they just came up short continues to drive him and his teammates on.
"It was a good effort even though we were two players down at half-time. We fought on well and just a couple of undisciplined acts and things that didn’t go our way cost us in the end," he said.
"It was still a good effort but really you want to come away with the four points so it was disappointing in the end that we couldn’t get over the line. We kept creating opportunities and getting the ball in the forward-line."
While the recruits have come in and had a good impact this season for Peel, youngsters such as Butcher, Thomas Murphy, Brennan Gillam, Callan Eddy, Rhys Senior, Pohlenz-Saw, Devin McFarlane and Dean Beswick are among the group that Healey is impressed with as they develop.
"We seem to be getting better each week and South was in third spot coming into this game, and we had our chances and could have won the game. We've shown we can take it up to the top sides and we really are playing well, but some little lapses here and there are costing us," Healey said.
"I think that comes down to some inexperience and we have a really young side, but the young guys we have blooded have been playing well. Phil Pohlenz-Saw, Trav Murphy and a few guys like that have come in and had a real impact. We are positive about how we are going and hopefully we get up next week against Perth at home."
After having his time with Melbourne ended after two years at the end of 2010, Healey was weighing up what to do next in his football career even though he wasn’t even yet 21 years of age.
When Peel showed an interest in him he liked the sound of making the move west and coming to the Thunder to help build the group up virtually from scratch.
"Peel approached me and I thought why not get out of the VFL and make a fresh start. I thought the bigger grounds might suit me with my running as well and I thought it would be a good opportunity with an up and coming club to get a chance to help build the club up," he said.
"I didn’t really know anything to be honest. Marty Atkins spoke to me on the phone and gave me a brief run down, but I didn’t really know a great deal. It's been a really good experience so far. Peel Thunder have been great to me and helped me settle in really well.
"The new stadium should officially launch in a couple of weeks so that's exciting as well, and it's just a great time to be part of the club and starting to build it up. I used to live in Melbourne so compared to that it's a fair bit more quiet, but I'm enjoying it."
Healey is happy with the way the team is coming along and is looking forward to getting to play the next two games at Bendigo Bank Stadium – starting this Saturday against Perth and then the following week against West Perth.
"With the group of older guys that have come in they've all got some good experience and the young guys are improving each week, so it is really exciting to be part of it," Healey said.
"We are basically starting from the ground up so we can only get better from here. We train on that ground and like to think we are a bit better team on it, so it's a really good opportunity for us to get a couple of wins up in a row and that's what we are aiming to do."
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