By Nick Creely
Doveton has by no means rested on their laurels ahead of a massive 2020 season.
The reigning AFL Outer East Division 1 premiers – stepping up to the Premier Division grade alongside Pakenham – have no intention to merely make up the numbers, with the Doves going on a major recruiting drive as it continues to bolster up its list and prepare for another step up.
Coming across from Rowville, 24-year-old key position forward Mark Seedsman, experienced premiership defender Troy Allen, and attacking defender Luke Hadaway have all signed on the dotted line at AJ Robinson Reserve, boosting the running and key position stocks significantly.
The Doves have also brought two former players back into the fold, with midfield jet Jarrod Smith – a former Dandenong Stingray star – returning after a stint with St Kilda City, while inside midfielder Charlie O’Neill also return after playing two seasons at Highett in the Southern league.
Former Oakleigh Charger and Port Melbourne VFL player Austin Deneys – who most recently played in the powerful Eastern Football League for Forest Hill – has also signed for the club, with the midfielder a huge addition to the Doves. Michael Best – a star for Inverleigh in the Geelong District Football League – will also be a Dove in 2020, with the 2019 Team of the Year member another huge addition.
Adding to a strong group of new recruits, the Doves have essentially retained its entire premiership list, with director of football Martin Stillman telling the Gazette that retention was the main focus for the club moving forward.
“Predominantly, the entire list was re-signed around Round 10, so we’ve only got two players retired in Matthew Boyd and Jake Nicholson, outside of that we’ve retained the entire list which is massive retention so that was my first priority,” he said.
With an influx of quality recruits, Stillman said it was important that the Doves stay ahead of the game as the club moves up to the top division of AFL Outer East, with competition for spots in Round One next year already looking fierce.
“Moving into Premier Division it was imperative that we identified a few areas that we believed we could improve on and be competitive in 2020,” he said.
“When you do have success, and ultimately win a premiership you do attract players to your club, so not only have we looked at good players, we’ve looked at good characters to improve the club off the field.
“I looked at all the facets of our game, and we wanted to improve our attack in the forward 50, our midfield numbers and our half-back line, and we’ve been able to add some additions to our talls and smalls in the forward line, and some outside run in the midfield area, and some more run and carry in defence.
“With the salary cap and the points system, you really need to look at players in the mid to low 20s, but having said that, if you lose a player of Boyd’s ilk you still need to have some experience on the field, and Troy Allen will be a terrific acquisition with his experience.”
With the Doves gearing up for whatever 2020 may bring, Stillman said that there was also a major focus on youth and bringing the next wave of footballers through the doors of the club.
“We’re almost done (putting the list together), we’ve got some high calibre recruits – we’re also really focusing heavily on an influx of young players coming from local junior clubs, so I think we’re setting ourselves up well, and it’s a big challenge to come up to the Premier Division, but we’re pretty confident that we can be very competitive in 2020,” he said.