New-look Doves set for 2024

Cameron Williamson will have assistance inside 50 in 2024. 359438 Picture: ROB CAREW

By Jonty Ralphsmith

Southern Football Netball League Division 2 club Doveton is optimistic that a new-look midfield group can deliver success.

First-year coach and club stalwart Matt Stapleton has changed the on-ball dynamic, with incumbent ruck Dylan Chapman set to tap down to youngster Brodie Howie and recruits Matt Rogers and James Canty, alongside the classy Will Smith.

It’s a changed dynamic from the big-bodied tough players which propelled them to a preliminary final last year followed by a grand final loss in 2022.

“So far, in a short period of time, they’re (starting) to gel and that will progress throughout the year,” Stapleton said.

“Some of those guys going through there are going to add a bit of flair around the footy which will be good to watch for our supporters.

“Hopefully what you can see with the leg-speed we’ll have is us moving the ball really efficiently.”

It’s a deviation from the more methodical style that the likes of Aaron Johns and Shannon Henwood led last year, with that slower build-up at times limiting their scoring, given their smaller forward-line.

Doveton averaged 70 points per game in 2023 – the fewest of any finalist.

The Doves have recruited big forward Matt Clarke, the former Noble Park Bull among several set to relieve pressure off marking small goal-kicker Cam Williamson, but Stapleton forecast a flexible role for Clarke.

“He’s got a tremendous ability to cover the ground,” Stapleton said.

“Whilst he will be spending a lot of time up forward, we might push him up the ground and utilise his running capacity on the wing at times.

“That was probably where we needed to add one more pillar in terms of another option up there.

“You bring him in as a pillar but he’s brought in so much more than a key target up forward – he drives our standards on the training track.”

Energetic mover Ricky Johnson has also been earmarked for a wing role by the coach following a breakthrough 2023.

Doveton’s most recent match against Emerald capped off a strong preseason and was the first hit-out on Robinson Reserve since August 2022.

“We see it as an asset to play on such a big ground so we have to make sure those nine home games count,” Stapleton said.

“I couldn’t have asked for much more from the group in their ability to adapt in a new way we’re going about training, some new things we’ll try on the field and overall application.

“It’s time to put the hard work into action.”

Doveton kicks off its campaign against Keysborough at Robinson Reserve on Saturday.

Ins: Matt Clarke, James Canty, Hayden Spierings, Will Kerr, Joel Pritchett, Matt Rogers, Ben O’Loughlin, Lochie Convoy.

Outs: Matt Stapleton, Daniel Zajac, Troy Allan, Michael Cardamone, Aaron Johns.