By Jonty Ralphsmith
Replacing experience with experience.
That’s the formula for Southern Football Netball League Division 2 club Doveton, which has brought in two 200-gamers and an Eastern Football Netball League goalkicker for 2024.
Left-footed defender Ben O’Loughlin will bring key leadership skills from Officer to the Doves, while Matt Rogers adds to the midfield mix.
Hard-running midfielder James Canty has also joined from Western Australian Club Northbeach alongside the versatile Joel Pritchett from VAFA club Mazenod.
The well-regarded Matt Clarke crosses from Noble Park and also has experience at Officer as a focal point inside 50.
Following a season where Doveton lacked a key forward, his presence will be crucial to help the Doves kick winning scores.
“We really believe in the list we have at the moment and that comes with re-signing the majority of them and making sure they’re really clear on what their roles will be,” said coach Matt Stapleton.
“We’ve made no secret that we want to be a really exciting team and play a more attacking style of footy.
“Adding someone like ‘Clarkey’ into our forward mix and some other positional switches will help us average that 12-14 goals per game which will give us a better shot against the top teams at the end of the day.”
Those inclusions come after the retirements of Dan Zajac and Stapleton, and former coach Michael Cardamone luring the seasoned Aaron Johns to The Basin.
It means the typically rugged and hardy Doveton midfield will have a new look in 2024 as the Doves pursue attacking punch, with Ricky Johnson another name who could run through the middle after a breakthrough 2023.
“It’s just about getting him to play more of a specific role,” Stapleton said.
“He really attracts the ball, so we want to get him in really good positions so then he can utilise his skills; so anticipate that he will push up the ground a little bit more.”
Stapleton also highlighted classy midfielder Will Smith as a player to keep an eye on next season.
“We anticipate he will get back to his 2019 league best and fairest winning form,” Stapleton said.
“The upside in someone like Will is we only saw glimpses of his best in 2023 but never saw him in full flight so it will be really exciting to get him again.
“He’s really applied himself in the off-season.
“I can see that passion for his footy and teammates in preseason already, so we’re re really excited with what he will bring running out games.”