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Yarra Valley Water InFocus 2024 | Templestowe

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By Ryan Long.

After the club’s best season since 2016, Templestowe are set to remain as one of the key challengers for this year’s Division Two premiership flag.


Off the bat of a strong off-season with vital recruiting moves, Templestowe won their first senior final in eight years, falling short at the second last hurdle of the season.


Nick Batsanis earned the role as the official senior coach of the club in late August last year.


The dual premiership skipper took over the reins as the interim playing coach with four games to play in the 2023 Home and Away season before the club announced his official appointment.


Due to injury, Batsanis coached most of the 2023 finals series from the sidelines.


“I soon realised that playing coaching wasn’t for me,” Batsanis said.


“It’s difficult to try and play a game of footy and coach at the same time.”


The Dockers advanced through to a Preliminary Final in the club’s best season in seven years. Although they fell short of the ultimate goal, Batsanis was pleased with what they were able to get out of the second half of the year.


“We had some players evolve quite quickly in the backend (of the season), we saw some real maturity through the finals, especially in the Heathmont game where we lost four or five players across the day,”


“The young guys coming through, we were able to give them a lot more opportunity, hopefully, it holds us in good stead for this year.”


The three-week finals series for the Dockers also saw the side identify some key areas of their game that they’re looking at adjusting ahead of the upcoming season.


“We need to defend a lot better as a side,” Batsanis said.


“We can’t just play an attacking brand of football to get out of defence. That was one area we identified as an area of improvement.”


After a couple of productive off-seasons, the club has again invested plenty of time in addressing their needs while recruiting.


To start, they focused on their key talls stocks, signing Ex-SANFL ruckman Bailey Griffiths. The nephew of Port Adelaide premiership ruckman Dean Brogan, Griffiths has spent time with South Adelaide in the SANFL before a season with Wodonga.


Griffiths joins Beau Mitchener who joined the Dockers in 2023, selected in the Division Two Team of the Year.


Batsanis says the two will share ruck duties, giving the side more flexibility around who they use depending on the opposing side.


“We might find that Beau matches up a lot better on certain ruckman and play most of the game in the ruck and vice versa if we’re finding that Bailey is getting on top of a few ruckmen,”


“They’re man mountains the two of them, it’ll give us opportunities to have them spend time forward, not just a five-minute stint forward, if we can have them up forward for a quarter or two and hopefully, they can do some damage in the forward half.”


A couple of the other key aspects the Dockers have targeted ahead of the 2024 season include some leg speed and pace on the outside.


The club picked up some important recruits from successful Premier Division clubs such as Balwyn and Doncaster East to address those areas.


“(Andrew) Fasanella has come across to us from Donny East which gives us some real good ball use across half back and the middle of the ground,” Batsanis said.


“Nick Bird from Balwyn looks like a pretty good type that will play on the outside for us.”


“Yianni (Kazakis) from Donny East, can play a role as the third or fourth tall in the forward line as well.


“So we’ve just gone out to plug a few holes and I think we’ve done that short term.”


A total of six Templestowe players (Alex Brown, Michael Fogarty, Carl Giovannini, Beau Mitchener, Toby Ryan and Doug Wootton) made last year’s Team of the Year, proving how strong their top-end talent is.


Their forward line will also be boosted by Templestowe’s Reserves leading goalkicker Luke Fitzsimons who finished with 50 goals for the season.


“He’s pretty keen to have a crack at playing senior footy, he’ll give us a bit more versatility in the front half as well.”


The Dockers reserves team are coming off Back-to-Back Grand Final appearances.


Multiple players from that side had a chance at senior football last season and Batsanis believes there will be further opportunities for those players in 2024.


“Dion Mustafa in the second half of the year grew of age and started playing a real good role in the front half for us, we’ll see him play a lot more senior footy,”


“Marcus Pillot, Jeremy Sakkas, from what we’ve seen, they can definitely play senior footy regularly.”


The ten-team Division Two competition sees Croydon and Lilydale replacing Knox and Upper Ferntree Gully this year.


The race for a position in the top five is set to be a tight one but there’s no question that the boys from Porter Street’s best is more than good enough to be one of the leading contenders in the division.


Setting the standards early in the pre-season has been a major priority as they set their eyes on Round One.


“Ultimately, we just want to improve five to ten per cent on the last couple of years. We want to hold some high standards on and off the field that we can improve on,” Batsanis said.


“If we want to be a div one side, we need to start preparing and training like a div one side now,”


“If that’s at the end of this year that we’re able to win the flag, great, we’ll take that but If we still go deep and are unsuccessful, at least we’re putting in the foundations now.”

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