The Doves are back flying with the AFL Outer East’s top bracket of clubs, and getting an early feel for victory.
The Division One premier in 2019, Doveton started its Premier Division campaign on the right note on Saturday, outlasting Wandin 9.6 (60) to 7.15 (57).
The finish had spectators at Robinson Reserve on the edge of their seats.
Doveton coach Daniel Charles admitted “it wasn’t pretty” but the Doves rallied in unforgiving conditions to grasp victory from the jaws of defeat.
They had trailed for most of the game.
“(Wandin) were well structured and worked really hard, our boys structure fell away a little bit,’’ he said.
“But we sort of stuck in there, looked dangerous when we got the ball forward quickly, but just weren’t clean below our knees.’’
Wandin reaped the rewards of its strong structure in terms of field position, but struggled to convert it to scoreboard dominance, marred by inaccuracy in front of goal.
This was most telling in the first quarter, when the game was basically played in the Bulldogs’ half and they had triple the scoring shots, yet trailed 1.5 (11) to 2.0 (12) at quarter-time.
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After two quick goals to start the second term, Wandin was in a position to build a sizeable lead.
But as it did all game, Doveton hung in gallantly, finishing the half strongly to bring the halftime margin back to two points.
The third quarter was played much to the same tune as the first two, the Bulldogs starting well while Doveton did enough to stay in touch, a crucial goal after the three-quarter-time-siren putting it within four points.
Jake Mullen set the tone for the Doves early in what would be a seesawing and captivating final term, coolly converting to deliver a two-point lead.
Wandin took its chances to wrestle back the ascendancy, looking to slow the game down once it fought its way to a 10-point advantage.
The Bulldogs’ more controlled approach opened the door for the Doves to lock the ball forward, and they hounded the Wandin defence.
The bounce of the ball had a big say, stopping on the verge of a rushed behind long enough for Doveton to force a goal, putting it within three.
The Doves hit the front when Harley Primrose held his nerve in front of the sticks, nailing what proved to be the matchwinner.
Wandin fell three points short having missed a late opportunity at the other end to snatch the lead back. It was the story of the visitors’ day.
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Charles lauded Doveton’s “really strong performances by a few players’’.
“It wasn’t a great team effort, but we had some good individual efforts that got us across the line,’’ he said.
“Jake Mullen in his first game back at the club kicked four so he was really good.
“Mark Seedsman kicked two, presented well all day, even though the conditions didn’t suit him. Sammy Muirhead down back was really good.
“Harley Primrose played well all game down back, then late in that last quarter we threw him forward to try and give us something and he kicked two late goals, which was the difference in the end.
“It was our first game since we won the grand final in first division in 2019. We had a few first-gamers, they were a bit nervous, so I think it was just exciting for the club to be back out on the park.
“I think we’ll improve from that run and just happy to get a win.”
With the Dandenong Stingrays on a break in the NAB League Boys, Kobi George, the son of club great Davie, lined up for the Doves and was also among the best players.