Watsonia coach George Lattouf is confident his club’s playing list has improved enough over the off-season to ensure it is a competitive outfit in A Plus Labour Solutions Division 2 in 2020.
The Saints have finished inside the bottom-two on the ladder in each of the past two seasons following consecutive campaigns that have yielded just four wins.
However, in both campaigns there was no threat of relegation – with no sides demoted to enable the NFNL’s second division to expand to 10 teams for the 2020 season.
But with relegation to be reintroduced this year, Lattouf is confident his club has improved sufficiently in recent months to ensure it is not among the fight to avoid bottom spot come season’s end.
With an emphasis on improving fitness and skill levels, Lattouf said his side has focused on creating a style of football which will stack up against the rest of the competition.
“We’ve been making sure we have a good style of football that enables us to compete with the other nine good sides,” Lattouf told NFNL.org.au.
“There’s been a lot of hard work since November and to see the boys now, as a coach I’m really proud that the hard work has paid off.
“We’re now looking forward to playing some football games.”
Two areas of concern last season were a lack of depth through both the midfield and forward line.
This has been addressed by signing of former Lalor and 2018 West Preston-Lakeside premiership player Josh Novelli, and Greensborough duo Jesse Presser and Jacob Pickett.
All three players bring Division 1 experience to A.K. Lines Reserve and Lattouf is confident they will make a positive impact in 2020.
“Josh Novelli has come down from Lalor, but he’s an ex-West Preston player who played when I was there. He’s going to give us more impact in our midfield group,” Lattouf said.
“The duo we picked up from Greensborough, Jacob Pickett and Jesse Presser, they’ll be good targets and enhance our forward line.”
Other notable additions include Xavier Cahill, who has joined from Montmorency, and Khodr Waari from West Preston-Lakeside.
Cahill played 45 senior games for the Magpies, including six in 2019, while Waari’s 28 senior matches for the Roosters included 14 appearances over the past two premiership campaigns.
Allan Young and Lewis Franz are Watsonia’s most notable departures over the off-season, with Young joining Heidelberg West and Franz transferring to Doncaster.
However, Lattouf was glad to have retained most of the playing list from the 2019 season.
“We’ve been able to keep 95 per cent of our list from last year at the club, which is something we’re proud of,” he said.
“The guys who have left have retired from football and some guys have moved back home because they we’re from the country.”
Watsonia will tune up against Old Eltham Collegians in a practice match this Saturday, before taking on EDFL outfit and Roxburgh Park and the EFNL’s Heathmont.
The Saints’ 2020 home and away campaign begins against St Mary’s at Whatmough Park on April 4.