Saturday, 1 August 2020

Marco Jankovic heads north, then South

So, in previous pandemic dispatches from the president there was mention made that, in true NRL style. we had already signed players for next season. Well, here's one of those - defender Marco Jankovic from Bentleigh. My concern with this is that I worry about when Bentleigh releases any player and we end up snapping him up, because I'm suspicious about why said player would leave a stable, successful environment for whatever it is that we're doing. Anyway, like Harry Sawyer, Jankovic will be spending the rest of the 2020 season in Queensland (in his case, playing for Lions FC), so our most immediate hope is that both players come through that in one piece.

Friday, 31 July 2020

Harry Sawyer goes north

Harry Sawyer - the likely winner of South Melbourne's 2020 golden boot award, for whatever that's worth this year - has signed up with Gold Coast Knights for rest of the season. The move has been described by Gold Coast Knights' social media outlets as a loan move - though I am unaware if Sawyer was signed to South for 2020 and 2021, so who knows what such a loan move actually means for Harry's future at Lakeside. Then again, who knows what the future holds for anything anymore.

Saturday, 25 July 2020

CAKE!

Having spent over a decade at a western suburbs university full of self-doubting weirdos, I'm well aware of the idea of "impostor syndrome" - but the creator of this minor masterpiece being critical of their work is a bit too much.
I mean, if I had anywhere near the cake design skill of our friend here, would I have spent the past 13 years blogging about soccer?

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Party like it's 1998

I'll play them if I have the chance - usually by being the stingy sort and just borrowing it from the local library - but I'm not a big enough fan of modern soccer video games to go out and buy my own copy. But I know some of you are, and you've probably already seen this making the rounds.


Someone has gone out of their way to apparently try and re-create the glory days of Australian soccer for play on the latest Pro Evo game - and by glory days, I guess this means the National Soccer League circa-1998. And who of us could argue? Though like Billy Natsioulas, one does have to query whether they got Trimmers' speed stats right. They also misspell the sponsor's name, bit that's neither here nor there really. Seeing how they no longer exist, Viviannes Collection is hardly going to issue a cease and desist anyway.

I assume those of you who bother with such things know how to download and make the option file work.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Stephen Folan returns home

As reported by the club's media avenues, visa player Stephen Folan is returning to Ireland.
Makes sense.

Monday, 13 July 2020

2020 NPL Victoria season cancelled

So, that's it for senior men's or women's soccer in the mainline metropolitan competitions for 2020.

While Football Victoria and a select few clubs who believed in their (given by who knows) mandate of football heaven that they must try and play through a pandemic, the pandemic has ultimately won.

But only for now. Because even as there appears to be no end in sight to the pandemic easing in Victoria to such a point where we might conceivably see local soccer return this year, still the dreamers of dreams are going to try and find a way to get any sort of soccer played in what remains of this awful year.

At the moment that seems to be mostly around getting junior competitions completed under some modified format, because won't someone think of the children and all that. Or won't someone think of a governing body that would hate to have to refund a ton of money back to clubs who would, in theory at least, return those fees back to those who put the money in the food chain in the first place.

And while sporting body budgets are always erratic things prone to mild swings of boom and bust, and belt tightening and free spending, having no competitions and therefore no fees coming into your coffers for a whole year would be hard to deal with for any governing body. And even if there was some kind of government bailout to cover your arse for this situation, it might not yet be enough.

Anyway, all of this is disappointing, but understandable. I blame no one who wanted to bail on the whole year when it seemed like most teams were gearing up for some kind of return. I blame no one who bailed when it became obvious that the virus' first wave had returned. I don't even blame those who wanted to play, whatever their motivation for doing so.

As it is, Football Victoria is looking to try and organise cobbled together tournaments of some sort for the spring and summer, for what purpose other than trying to claim some of their soon-to-be missing fees (assuming they don't keep the fees of those that choose not to play in of these proposed tournaments).

As it is, I would like to be able to say that I can write up a season review now, but since there might be some sort of South related action yet in 2020, I'll guess I'll just pad out the weeks with other crap until such time as everyone gives up on trying to get anything going this year.

Monday, 29 June 2020

The extended gist of the June 2020 president's message

As many of us are aware, as part of a personal push to improve member/board relations, president Nick Maikousis had promised to instigate regular member forums to inform members of ongoing matters at the club - as well as receive more prompt feedback from the membership rather than wait for an AGM.

Regular member forums also reduce the time needed to be spent at AGMs as well, of course, but I guess that's more of a fringe benefit.

If you haven't noticed these promised member forums, it's because they haven't been happening this year, for obvious reasons. Still, after giving an update via the re-booted South Radio in early April, Maikousis has not made any further appearances or made any further announcements until yesterday. 

As a matter of fact, South Radio also seems to have disappeared again.

All of this is understandable, because there's been both nothing happening, and a lot of stuff happening. The nothing is both on field, because no one's playing any games, as well as off field, because there'd been little obvious progress being made on a resumption until recently. But the lots of stuff happening is also true, as the club's senior teams had returned training, and there was constant talk about how the competition would resume.

Either way, it's nice to have official word on a number of issues. Of course you can all watch the video on Facebook - it's only about ten minutes long - but if you don't like the usage of the generic dance music that the club's media wing has made its signature, you may as well as read this summary instead. 

This summary also has the benefit of being easier to find for future reference. 

First cab off the rank is that all teams and all age groups have resumed training, which is nice I suppose. In regards to the men's season, Maikousis noted the difficulty of getting even this far into agreement to resume the season, remembering that just three NPL clubs (ourselves, Hume, and Gully) wanted to resume, and that Bentleigh have withdrawn from the 2020 season. Our club pushed for as much football as possible to be played - and thus we will (probably) have a completion of the remainder of the first half of the season, and an expanded eight team finals format.

The proposed finals format will include home and away legs. Maikousis makes no mention of matters relating to promotion and relegation for this year. It appears though that there will be a Dockerty Cup played for this season, which is nice.

The issue of a mid-season transfer window remains unresolved, though Maikousis noted that clubs may be able to use players signed for next season, for this season. How that actually works I'm not sure. No mention was made of any of our players potentially leaving for other clubs during whenever the mid-season transfer window may look like. 

There was brief mention made of the women's NPL and position in that. As expected, the plan is for a full home and away season, with finals series. At any rate, there are no fixtures set for either competition at this stage. 

While no direct mention was made of the possibility of crowds returning to games this year, in the event that clubs are allowed to host crowds at games in 2020, the club will extend the rights of members to use their memberships for home Dockerty Cup ties as well as home NPL games. 

Though I think we can safely assume that under the current circumstances, a return to crowds is a tad unlikely.

As noted in earlier dispatches, the club is exploring the option of providing discounts to current members when renewing their memberships next season. I just hope the club's membership database is up to scratch.

Maikousis noted that Eric Zimmerman has joined the board, with his immediate remit being the building up of our sponsor portfolio and business networks. Again, this has been a stated goal of Maikousis that's been oft repeated.

The president noted that there are no outstanding payments owed to members of the current senior men's squad. I don't know what that means for members of previous squads. The club is also seeking an overhaul of the player contract and dispute resolution process, and is working with bodies such as Football Victoria and the PFA in order to avoid having an "Avondale situation" happen again, as well as I assume avoid having wage dispute matters dealt with through the media for want of appropriate dispute resolution channels.

The Chris Taylor matter has been resolved, though the nature of that issue's resolution will remain undisclosed and confidential. No surprise there. All one can say is that I'm glad that's finally over, though who knows what the monetary costs were, as well as the costs to our reputation and success on the field.

Lastly, the club is pushing ahead with trying to get the second division  up and going - something about "seizing the opportunity", and offering all the resources the club has at its disposal to FFA, in order to make the dream of aspirational clubs all over the country come true. Who knew we had that many resources?

Monday, 22 June 2020

News! Sweet, nourishing news!

Finally some solid sense of when local soccer might come back, as well as in what form. Hold on to that feeling for as long as you can though, because you don't know when it will be taken away from you by irresponsible Essendon players or people attending poorly thought out house parties.

So the date for resumption of NPL Victoria is the weekend of July 25/26th. According to this Joey Lynch article (which is well worth a read), the recent spike in corona virus infections and the associated re-implementation of some pandemic restrictions won't have any effect on the resumption of local soccer, but we'll see. 

The consensus resumption format *seems* to be that in the men's NPL competition there will be eight more rounds played to complete the home and away season, which with the five already completed rounds, will at least set up a situation where everyone has at least played each other once. After that there will be an eight team finals component, of who knows what format.

This proposed return to action has been complicated by the fact that Bentleigh Greens have withdrawn from the rest of the 2020 season, As long as they pay their fiscal dues for this year, they get to keep their spot, and it seems like there won't be any relegation anyway.

As to what happens to Bentleigh's first five results, one assumes they'll be annulled and each team granted a bye from now on, but until such time as Football Victoria clarifies the situation all I can d is speculate. No official word either on what happens to members of Bentleigh's squad now that there's no senior team for them to play for in 2020. The talk is that at least some will try their luck in the state leagues.

No word either from what I can on the status of and/or existence of a mid-season transfer window, or whether the Dockerty Cup will continue - though the persistence of the latter for 2020 does seem to be something that is being mentioned.

As for the NPL women, they're looking at a 14 match home and away season with a top four finals series. Unlike the men, the women's NPL had not yet started before the pandemic lockdown. South is still signing players up for that competition, and in some respects it all looks a bit more straightforward on that front, for the time being at least.

In terms of whether fans will be allowed to attend games, my hunch - and it really is only a hunch - is that it's not bloody likely, especially with the recent spike in corona virus cases. Quite how anyone will enforce a ban on spectators at games in open parks - such as those used by many women's teams, and of course many state league teams - is anyone's guess though.

Football Victoria plans to continue streaming some games, but that doesn't mean there's any guarantee that we'd be a team being covered. Still, I assume the club itself would endeavour to do whatever is possible to provide streams of games.

And there's also this...
Interesting news emerged over the weekend that along with a reformatted broadcast deal, the A-League will move to a predominantly winter season from next year, for at least the next couple of seasons. Whether this is a temporary move in order to deal with the effects of COVID-19 and the 2022 Qatar World Cup - which will be played in November-December - or a move that the A-League will be in for the long haul, remains to be seen.

I have my doubts about the sensibleness of this change in direction, but that's for those who are more engaged with the A-League - and those who are trying to get promotion and relegation up - to deal with. What hasn't been explained yet - not that I was expecting to have been sorted out so early in the piece - is how this will effect the leagues below the A-League.

From a Victorian perspective, one assumes that there will be little problem in terms of accommodating the match day use of AAMI Park between Victory, Heart City, Storm, and the Rebels. Where Victoria Patriots Western United end up is an ongoing problem, and while I don't think that any of the local A-League teams will end up at Lakeside at times during the winter, it will be interesting to see if any attempt is made by the government to accommodate them on the off-chance that AAMI Park is double-booked by another sporting event or a concert.

Of course there's also the issue of training venues which some local A-League teams are sorted for (City, United), and one which still isn't (Victory). Again, we will wait and see.

Up until now the tail-end of the summer-based A-League seasons have already extended into the start and/or end of the NPL Victoria (and before that, Victorian Premier League) and state league seasons. In the beginning, when the A-League had an August-September start, the competition would finish in early February. In more recent seasons, as the A-League has pushed back its season starting point, the competition has gone all the way into May. That is much like the National Soccer League had done its business during its summer seasons, with both competitions crossing well over into the start of grassroots soccer seasons across the country.

Where this becomes relevant to us is scheduling. Some states - I believe South Australia is one such case - does not allow local competitions to run against Adelaide United fixtures. That's easy enough to do when you have just one A-League team in your city, but also where there isn't a holdover collective of clubs who are not fans of your city's A-League team representatives. The multiple teams issue in particular is going to be very interesting to see play in Victoria in terms of scheduling A-League matches.

On any given week, there could be two A-League games in Melbourne, with limited premium time-slots available. Saturday afternoons are out, because that's already taken up by the vast majority of senior men's soccer teams. Sunday afternoons have a variety of junior and women's competitions in action, though most will be over by early afternoon in the event that our local A-League teams choose to go with a late Sunday afternoon kickoff.

Friday nights, apart from often being the AFL's marquee night (with most of those games being played in Melbourne), will also go up against the majority of NPL senior men's games. These Friday night senior men's games have come about sometimes from long habit, and some from recent attempts to avoid clashing with junior NPL Sunday fixtures.

Will the A-League seek to create rules in cities like Melbourne, which have multiple teams, preventing local soccer from clashing with local A-League fixtures? Or will most teams - including the increasing numbers of state league teams which have gone with Friday nights as their preferred home game timeslot - simply move out of the way when there's a clash? It will be interesting to see how the A-League goes about trying to make this work, considering that some of the accompanying rhetoric around the move to winter is about coming into line with/connecting with grassroots soccer and its participants.

(keep in mind that I don't buy the angle that there is any great hostility toward the A-League from most local soccer people - apart from the usual suspects - just indifference)

The switch to winter doesn't seem to bode well for the future of the perennially embattled Y-League. Will they persist with their too-short, budget summer season? Or will it also move to a full-length winter season winter, where you would then assume the A-League (senior) NPL reps would leave their respective comps? Or will the concept gets dumped entirely - with A-League youth teams (and I assume senior players who miss out on A-League selection) going on about their business in the NPL competitions?

There's also no word on what will happen to the W-League, and whether it will also move to winter. If the W-League moves to winter, it jeopardises its favourable alignment with the American NWSL. If the W-League does move to winter, it will probably see most capable W-League players move overseas to the more lucrative NWSL, as well as then sucking up even more players from local WNPL competitions to fill out the numbers.

All in all, a lot of things to ponder for those of us in the second (and third and fourth) tiers, even though public consideration of our relationship to this change seems to have been negligible at best, except as possible customers for a competition heading into waters left uncharted for 30 years.

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Who knows? Not me, that's for sure.

So where are we at with a potential restart and/or resumptio to the season? Who knows. Every day it seems there's restrictions being lifted, or at least talk of such in the near future. And yet in terms of the soccer stuff, most of us plebs are not much the wiser.

When will we see a restart? Will we be allowed to go? Which teams are in or out? What would the competition even look like? For whatever it's worth, both our men's and women's teams have been training, but anything more than, your guess is as good as mine as to what will actually happen.

There was talk of the leagues across the board being restarted - with promotion, and no threat of relegation, to avoid punishing teams that did not or could not resume play. Apart from the effect of inflating the numbers for the top division in 2021, that idea also necessitates the flow on effect of what to do for the top NPL division. Why would teams play if they weren't going to get relegated, weren't likely to win a championship, and weren't going to be able make any or much money at the gate and canteen?

And then there's talk of players moving on from NPL clubs to cash in on state league teams willing to throw the dice for promotion in this compromised season.

To the right is one set of possible scenarios as discussed within Football Victoria's meetings, which includes the possibility that the likely patchwork NPL season could include teams plucked from NPL 2 and 3 to fill out numbers.

Another source has told me that the league will resume on July 17, that Heidelberg and Avondale will be sitting out the comp, while Knights and Oakleigh are on the fence. Everyone else will play, and there'll be eight more rounds plus finals. Apart from their general commentary, another source of mine who is close to Heidelberg has told me that Heidelberg are very wary about the insurance implications of resuming, among other things.

Apart from that, there's  not much to say. I've been doing my radio show in Football Nation Radio, and piss-farting around wasting time. At least the footy's back.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Scrapbook artefact Wednesday - SM Hellas vs Newcastle BHP, 1993

After initially being a cautiously keen user of the Australian Football Before the A-League page, I'd boycotted it for a few years. Partly because I'm not a Facebook fan; partly because the page was becoming increasingly repetitive and was of poor quality from an artefact and discursive perspective; and partly because the moderators of the site did nothing to curb possibly libellous personal abuse levelled at myself and another user.

But the past is the past. Though some of the discussion on there is still vintage garbage TWGF level in terms of its pitting the past against the present, the quality of the artefacts seems to have improved somewhat, as the page's user base has increased in size. Some people are even posting full programs instead of just newspaper cut-outs!

In amid the usual and the surprising, you occasionally stumble across interesting items like this:

Click to enlarge the image. Credit: Mark Taylor.

It comes from a series of scrapbook notes taken by one of the page's members, Mark Taylor, who has been sharing them on the group's page. The game was South vs Newcastle in February 1993, the home game after the Clash of the Titans. In its own way it's a kinder gentler version of something like this,

Anyway, thanks to the relevant Facebook page, I've also been able to add even more content to South of the Border's match program archive, including the program from the opening of St George Stadium - at present our oldest NSL program on the site, and our second oldest overall. We've also got away to Marconi in 1979, and hopefully soon Marconi away 1980 and 1981.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

More nothing than you can poke a stick at

Even though the pandemic is hardly over, Australia is gradually opening up again, and across the board sports are looking to resume in some form or another. So are is the NPL Victoria coming back this year?

Last week indiscreet murmurings on internet forums suggested that in our division, nine of the fourteen clubs weren't too keen to resume in 2020. Furthermore, the other five clubs, while wanting to resume, were sympathetic to those that didn't want to start again, especially if it meant not having crowds and the associated revenue at games.

But this apparent understanding began coming undone when news seeped out that the NPL 2 and 3 teams were keen on getting their seasons underway. How this would work without promotion to and relegation from the top division is an interesting question.

The whole notion of a detente however was blasted out of the water by Hume City's president Steve Kaya, who railed against the apparently ten NPL Victoria clubs refusing to resume, and noting that his club had resumed training. So, one team named within one faction, thirteen more to go across both. Then Green Gully announced that it was also resuming training, and the question for me was where did South sit?

My hunch - and it was only a hunch - was probably on the side of South being one of those not keen on coming back. That's less because of middling our performances had been, and mostly because our president Nick Maikousis had said at the beginning of the competition's shutdown that he didn't think the competition would return.

But according to Michael Lynch, alongside Hume and Gully, it's our club and Eastern Lions who make up the group of four clubs looking and/pushing for a resumption in play. Though there's some soccer-forum conjecture about Lions are actually in favour of resuming.

Football Victoria, which has been sending out intermittent updates on the situation via email, has a hopeful target of early July for the resumption of NPL senior football. From my isolated locale, I can't tell what's likely to happen.

Do the fans really want play to resume so badly that they're willing to put up with not being able to go to games? Are the players keen enough to come back even though it would mean having to put up with extremely stringent safety procedures on match days and at training? Is there even genuine scope for a return while the corona virus is still active within the community? What's the point of resuming if the whole thing can probably get shutdown with just one case if the virus in a player or official?

As usual, I've got a lot of questions and no answers.

Lakeside to receive funds for renovation
In other COVID-19 related news, the state government is planning to upgrade a wide variety of sporting facilities, as part of a pandemic economic recovery plan. According to this article in The Age, that includes renovation of Lakeside Stadium, whatever that means.

Match programs
Program-wise I've added the "possibly incomplete" Canberra City away 1980, the "I recently bought a copy off eBay" Sydney Olympic away 2004, and the "I was tardy in scanning it" Green Gully away 2019 to the collection. You know where to find these by now.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Tassie All-Stars stun the mighty South Melbourne Hellas in 1981 (via Walter Pless)

Photo of a pennant from the game between the Tassie All-Stars and South Melbourne
 Hellas, sent to Walter Pless by former Tasmanian player Craig Pitt. According to Pitt -
who played  against South for Tasmania in the early 1990s - the likely reason he has this
 pennant is that  he was a ballboy during the 1981 meeting between South and Tasmania.
During the coronavirus downtime, I've been mucking around with a collaborative project set up by Tony Persoglia to create and compile a database for interstate competition and tour matches, which will ultimately be uploaded to OzFootball. It's the kind of information which already exists in a piecemeal format on OzFootball - and in different, hard-to-find print almanacs - but which really needs a comprehensive clean-up so that we have a reliable one-stop shop for this kind of information. Here's a sample page of how this information will be presented once the collective effort is fully unleashed.

Meanwhile, unlike South of the Border, which has been slack with any sort of updating,
Tasmanian soccer journalist and historian Walter Pless has been spending the COVID-19 break putting up a series of fascinating posts on his blog on the olden days of Tasmanian soccer. Our lockdown interests met at the point where I needed info on a Tasmanian rep match from 1965 against an Auckland select in New Zealand.

While digging around for relevant info to help me out, Walter came across some South Melbourne Hellas archival materials, and kindly passed them along - and also managed to write about the Tasmanian state team beating our own South Melbourne Hellas in 1981. Here's the article originally posted by Walter on his blog - which he's kindly allowed me to reproduce on South of the Border. Naturally it's very much from the Tasmanian point of view. I'll have something more contemporary on the blog in the upcoming week.

Walter Pless' article in Soccer Action from October 21, 1981, covering Tasmania's win over South Melbourne.
The article above this one has then Hellas midfielder John Stevenson claiming that "it's Hellas' title in 1982".


Tasmanian coach Steve Darby really put his name, and that of Tasmanian football, on the map when he coached a Tasmanian All-Stars side to a 2-0 win over the highly-rated South Melbourne Hellas at South Hobart on 11 October 1981 before a crowd of 1,500.

South Melbourne Hellas had just finished second in the National Soccer League and their side included Alun Evans.

Evans began his career with Wolverhampton Wanderers and I had seen him play for Wolves in the United States against Stoke City in 1967.

Tasmanian coach Steve Darby. Photo: Walter Pless.
He joined Bill Shankly’s Liverpool in 1968 as a 19-year-old and played for The Reds for four seasons before losing his place to new signing Kevin Keegan.

Evans was the star of the South Melbourne side that came to Hobart but although he went close to scoring several times, the Tasmanian defenders kept him goalless.

Tasmania’s coach, Steve Darby, also had an impressive CV. He had been assistant national coach of Bahrain before coming to Tasmania to coach Devonport.

Darby also played for University and coached New Town Eagles, as well as the State team.

Darby went on to be the State Director of Coaching before leaving Tasmania and becoming a successful men’s and women’s coach in Australia and South-East Asia.

He coached the Matildas and the Vietnam women’s team, and was also assistant coach of the Thailand men’s national side.

The Tasmania All-Stars side was impressive and included former Middlesbrough First Division player Peter Brine in defence.

Photo: Peter Brine (rear at left) back in Hobart in 2018 to
 catch up with Craig Jones (front left), Nick Di Martino
 (rear right) and Denis Payne. Photo: Walter Pless.
The Tasmanian team was: Phil Kannegiesser - Alan Burton, Peter Brine, Darby Conlan, Chris Hey - Steve Kannegiesser, Eric Young, Willy Peters - Bruce Ward, Mark Oakes (Nick Cook 60), Ian Parker.

The South Melbourne Hellas line-up was: Laumets - Boon, Lutton, Xanthopoulos, Traficante - Stevenson, Shirra, Nicolaides, Campbell - Evans, Buljevic.

The Tasmanian side included other imports such as Eric Young (ex-Manchester United), Bruce Ward (one of the most lethal strikers ever to have played in Tasmania),Ian Parker (brilliant left-winger from the UK), Alan Burton (also from the UK) and Nicky Cook (was with Hull City).

The home-grown talent was impressive, too, with Chris Hey, Phil and Steve Kannegiesser, Darby Conlan, Willy Peters and Mark Oakes all playing from the start.

Eric Young (left) and Ian Parker catch up in Hobart in 2008.
 Photo: Walter Pless.
South Melbourne’s coach was former Greek international John Margaritis, who coached Olympia in Tasmania in the 1960s.

The referee was Tasmania’s Norm Johnston, a top-class official who had come to the State from Western Australia. He was here only a few years before returning interstate.

Goals by Ian Parker in the 11th minute and Bruce Ward in the 79th minute did the job for the home team.

I’d love to see the video of the game. It was filmed from the back of a ute parked on the grass at the side of the pitch near the present scoreboard. I know because David Martin and I were the commentators. David, Reg Tolputt and I used to host a half-hour football show on local radio station 7HT on Saturday mornings. Reg was one of the founders of new club Salvos (Salvation Army) and he was also the manager of one of Steve Darby's Tasmanian sides.

My match report in "Soccer Action" [see above] didn't appear until 10 days later because Steve Darby and I had been attending the semi-finals and final of the Under-20s World Cup in Sydney [won by West Germany 4-0 against Qatar].

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Jump! Jump! Jump! artefact Wednesday

Ah, 2007. It was a season which held so much promise. We were fresh off a championship, two years after almost going broke. We had what looked like a good squad, and a good first up crowd against the Bergers at home in an exciting game, followed by a thrilling win against Richmond, which I missed because I was at an Elbow concert. Another win against the Essendon Royals, and things looked promising. And then they didn't. Dean Anastasiadis went down with a season ending knee injury in round 4, and we soon found out that for the most part we were adept downhill skiers, but not much more than that, and the season ended with us missing the finals by three points, amid suspicion from some fans that'd we kinda tanked some games - specifically the 3-0 loss at Western Suburbs - because we had cash-flow problems.

But one could easily point to the uneven draw as a causal factor - though the league had 16 teams, there were only 26 rounds - and the fact that we only played that season's wooden spooner Springvale White Eagles just once. We could point to the mess of the goalkeeping situation once Deano went down. And you could of course point to many calamitous poor results, including the 2-0 home loss to Sunshine George Cross the week before that humiliation at Ralph Reserve. But all that is irrelevant compared to the forfeit forced upon us by Football Federation Victoria, for a home match against Melbourne Knights. But first some background.

2007 was a crazy year on the terraces, hills, concourses, and the streets of Melbourne. There were was the Cros vs the Serbs (and Greek onlookers) at the Australian Open tennis. There was a stolen Melbourne Victory banner which found its way to Clarendon Corner in round 1, and which made a reappearance at our game at Richmond. There were also more ethnic related incidents at the Water Polo World Championships. A combination of these things saw FFV and/or Victoria Police - it's not quite clear to me even now who was exerting the greater pressure - to demand unrealistically expensive security measures. South refused to pay the asking price, and FFV preemptively - that is, days out from the game - awarded a 3-0 forfeit to Knights.

The next week we were scheduled to play against Fawkner at CB Smith Reserve. This is the old CB Smith, with the tin shed along the western wing, and most importantly, an open view from outside the southern end, where there was only a high chain-link fence to visually obstruct spectators. It was a perfect venue to conduct what we called at the time a protest against FFV, which naturally proved futile, and only really served to hurt Fawkner on one of their bigger paydays for the year. The Agitator brought a slab of Heineken, and the game was an awful 0-0 draw - though we could've sneaked a winner late. The most interesting thing, unplanned amid the scarcely planned nature of the whole enterprise, was at the end of the game when the Clarendon Corner stalwart known as "Box" climbed up the very high and probably very rusty fence to chants of "Box! Box! Box!", and then when at the top, "Jump! Jump' Jump!". Thankfully he had a little more sense than that, and climbed back down.

I can't remember where I found this photo, so if it belongs to you let me know. But this was 13 years ago, and my haven't we come a long way since then.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

#itstime artefact Wednesday - #SMFC4ALEAGUE t-shirt

Time has stopped. Time no longer exists. There is no A-League. There is no South Melbourne Hellas. There is no soccer. We exist in the collective individualised state of attempting to engage with the twin voids of chronology and meaning. All we have left is the remembrance of time, and the events which occurred back when things still used to occur. I bought this t-shirt late last year at the Savers outlet in Footscray, for the princely sum of $3.49. I don't remember what the club was charging for these shirts. Not being convinced of the merits of the South Melbourne bid, or the legitimacy of the A-League bid process as a whole - and because I am preternaturally too cool for school - I didn't buy a shirt from the club when I had the chance. We could wonder which of our fans had bought one of these shirts and then lost all hope and abandoned the club after our most recent A-League bid failed. More likely, the shirt belonged to a former casual employee, volunteer, or sundry associate of the club, who would have no reason for keeping this shirt. For those of us still here, it's not an item that's going to end up in the poolroom, but there wasn't much choice for me when I saw it on the racks.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Nick Maikousis on South Radio

South Radio has put up a rather good interview with club president Nick Maikousis. For those not keen on listening to the full 30 minutes, here's a brief summary, though I won't have done the interview justice.

Maikousis notes that all operations at the club have shut down at all levels. Seniors mens, womens, juniors, the lot. Senior players are still training in isolation, under a stressful situation. Some players are entirely reliant on football income to make a living, but all of our contracts are game based.

Maikousis does not foresee the season resuming. That's interesting in itself, because as yet I have not seen anyone in any senior position in Victorian soccer making a statement like that, despite its obvious plausibility. He does throw up a rough scheduling model under which he believes that the 2020 NPL Victoria season could resume, but the time-frame would be tight - and it would be difficult for clubs whose grounds become unavailable in the off-season to maintain access to grounds, should the season be extended.

(largely left out of the discussion is what impact such a catch-up model would have on the condition of grounds having to take up at least two senior and reserves matches a week)

With his belief that the 2020 season is unlikely to resume, Maikousis goes on to discuss modelling of what a season without football will look like for South across the board - in terms of sponsorship, membership, costs, etc. He goes on to make the claim that for South, match day revenue is less important than it is for other clubs - which makes the idea of resuming under a closed-doors system less likely to happen in his opinion. The line that the club's revenue focus is now on sponsorship sits in line with comments made at the most recent AGM, but it is a comment which also downplays somewhat the fretting over lost match day revenues due to both our recent (past two years) poor form, and especially the impact of the live streaming og every NPL game.

While nothing has been settled yet, there is the possibility that those who have already paid sponsorship and/or membership fees, may have their benefits rolled over into next year, especially in the event that the entire season is called off. This would be an interesting move, with quite a few variables. What if a junior player does not return next year? If a sponsor's business is effected so much that they cannot continue into next year, if say, they've only made part payment? Still, best to wait and see what actually happens with the rest of the season, and event what Football Federation Victoria will end up doing with its operations.

The club is working through the ramifications of the shutdown on our various facilities, which includes the Middle Park and Caulfield grounds as well as Lakeside, and the rental and financial obligations related to those. The club will also investigate the various government subsidies which have emerged as a result of the corona virus shutdown. There was no mention of the effects on the sub-lease of the social club operations. Maikousis did note however, that the club's external debt repayment plan - originally slated to be complete by the end of 2020 - would likely be pushed out by three months.

After the broadcast was published, there was going to be a meeting between the various NPL clubs to discuss the situation.

Maikousis also provided an update on a meeting with PFA head John Didulica, regarding the recent accusations of unpaid wages. Maikousis made the point that the issue was not about wages, but rather about end of contract terms regarding players who left during the middle of the season - an issue which is being resolved, or close to being resolved. The president also claimed that the club and the PFA are in agreement about the lack of an adequate dispute resolution process when issues arise between clubs