By Matt Fotia
It’s been an incredible journey for the Doveton Football Netball Club and its senior coach Daniel Charles, with the club having endured the lowest of lows in 2018, before experiencing the highest of highs on Sunday after they knocked off Pakenham by six points at the Woori Yallock Football Ground in the Division One Grand Final.
The Doves finished the home and away season in third place, but upset both Monbulk and Pakenham on their way to the week off, before holding off the Lions on the big day. Charles and his crew weren’t expecting anything other than close encounter, such is their respect for the Lions who were the benchmark of the competition for the second half of the season.
Charles accepted the invitation from Doveton’s playing president – Aaron Henwood – to apply for the coaching role at the Doves prior to the 2018 season, with the proud club on its knees. Faced with the strong possibility that the doors may slam shut at AJ Robinson, Charles instructed Henwood that they needed to rebuild and start again, with a core of good people needed to push the club forward.
“I got a call from Azza Henwood, asking me to go for the coaching job and the words were – if this doesn’t work, we close the doors,”
“My message to him was to get good people and we set out to get as many young kids to club and good quality senior players, that were great people,”
“And that’s what we did.”
With a mixture of players returning to the club or arriving for the first time, Charles was faced with the challenge of bonding the group together, and with the help of his son, he did so.
“These boys actually care about their teammates and that’s been a message that I’ve pushed since I got here,”
“We rarely shake hands, blokes hug each other and my son, when he was in grade four, taught me that handshakes are for strangers,”
“So every time we see each other we give each other a hug.”
Hugs were the order of the day once the final siren sounded on Sunday, with family members, friends and the rest of the Doveton faithful intent on embracing their premiership heroes. For Charles however, there was one hug he cherished most, one from his father Steve, who presented Charles and captain Matt Stapleton the premiership cup.
Doveton holds a special place in the heart of the Charles family.
“Dad played in the first ever Doveton flag,”
“Doveton Football (Netball) Club has had a reputation for a long time of being a rough place,”
“But the reality is, it is a family club.”
“My mum’s uncle, ‘Titch’ Edwards, came to the club in the mid 50’s and all these years (later) I’m doing the same thing,”
“It’s a community club – in the 50’s and 60’s, when it wasn’t socially acceptable to associate with aboriginal people, the club opened up its doors to my Dad, my Aunties and made it home,”
“There’s so many cultures down there, it’s amazing.”
The Doves still had a strong aboriginal presence on the weekend, with League Best and Fairest winner William Smith and 17 year old Deakyn Smith both playing key roles. Another player who was instrumental, especially during the latter stages of Sunday’s game, was Matthew Boyd.
The ex-Western Bulldog has been a regular in the Doves line up for the past two seasons with his skills, ability to read the play and mentor the younger members of the squad a crucial ingredient in Doveton’s premiership victory and in their future.
“He’s been amazing, by the time the runner gets out there, he’s already told them (players) and that’s so valuable in a game,”
“And when we’ve been in trouble we’ve been able to throw him back behind the football, where he can position people,”
“It was the reason we were able to keep them goalless in those last five minutes.”
Doveton are quite obviously one of the biggest benefactors of the AFL Outer East, having gone from bottom of the mountain to the summit in the space of 12 months and Charles says the crowd and atmosphere at Woori Yallock on Sunday – which was well over 3,000 – proved that people don’t really care where their team plays football.
“I think the league has been a good thing, for the communities and the supporters,”
“You know people don’t care whether you win a Grand Final up in the hills or just down the road, they’ll turn up,”
“It (The AFL Outer East) has been great for the club.”