But the soccer season is upon us once more, and thus life becomes all about South Melbourne Hellas for the next few months, for some of us more than others. Good on you if you can keep your passion in check, releasing it at the appropriate moment during the weekend. Some of us however are beyond redemption, spending every waking hour attached to Twitter or the forums looking for any bit of news or something to take offence to.
The South Melbourne men's season will be dominated by one thing - the after-shocks following the Chris Taylor sacking. Everything is going to exist in its shadow. Off the field, who knows what's going to occur? Will the social club begin to hit its stride? What about the futsal court? Will anyone else step up to organise a rival ticket? Will anyone tell us something tangible about our A-League bid, or will we have to read about it in the press?
Our champion WNPL side is also back in action this week, though like the men's team they'll be away for a good portion of the first part of the year. I do intend to try and make it to more of their games this season. I wish that more of their opponents weren't in monstrously inaccessible locales.
We'll always have those satay chicken skewers at the South Melbourne Christmas party
Apparently off-season signing Darby Dexter has signed over at Hume City. When I say apparently, I mean I read it on this blog in the comments somewhere, not that the club put that info out. Now the question is, who do you trust more? The club's deeply dishonest and manipulative media service, or some anonymous contributor posting to a poorly moderated blog? That's what I thought.
No 'new' teams this year
In the league at least, all our opponents, including the promoted pair of Northcote and Dandenong Thunder, will be familiar to us. The only notable difference will be some of the match days and kickoff times may be a little different to what we're used to.
Oh, and at some point we'll know where Avondale are going to be playing home games this season; they say Reggio Calabria Club, but that's going to need a lot of work, so they'll probably end up at Paisley Park or something. Barring an FFA Cup match up, that won't be a problem for South fans to deal with until very late in the home and away season.
I don't know what the condition of the various surfaces will be like, if lighting has been improved, or whether we'll ever be allowed on the outer side of Port Melbourne ever again, but that's par for the course - most venue changes tend to be more subtle than revolutionary, and as summer becomes autumn and autumn becomes winter, and the grounds get a ton of usage under their belts, things get that little bit more unplayable regardless of how well things started.
Perhaps the most notable change in venue status - aside from wherever Avondale end up - is at the Veneto Club, which has a new synthetic pitch.
Lucky us, we're the first visiting side to try it out.Also in NPLV stadium news Bulleen Lions home David Barro Stadium is having resurfacing works. The players will enjoying a much smoother synthetic pitch. First game will be round 1 vs South Melbourne Monday night the 26th of February pic.twitter.com/4bYeSkMJP4— Chris Gleeson (@gleebo41) December 24, 2017
Who are the teams to beat?
Got me stumped. Despite everything that's happened, we should be competitive - it's still a good squad, although depth in certain areas will always be an issue.
It's probably now or never for Green Gully and Arthur Papas. Avondale has gone off the deep end with its player signings. The Bergers look about the same as last year, albeit with probably no King Kenny for a good chunk of the year. Have heard stuff all about what Oakleigh's done during the off-season. Bentleigh have had a huge turnover in players, and Hume is going for the daring/stupid approach of hiring a captain-coach.
At the bottom end, everyone seems to be saying Northcote, Port and Bulleen are going to be thrashing it out to avoid relegation, with little mention of Kingston being in that mix, but how do you know for sure? What I think we can say for near certain is that overall this season's competition will be stronger if for no other reason then the fact that we've disposed of two very poor teams in North Geelong and St Albans, and replaced them with at least one much more credible contender in Dandenong Thunder. The team that finished third last in 2017, Melbourne Knights, also looks like it's snapped out of its malaise. As for Pascoe Vale, it looks like they've stalled a bit, but all it takes is a good start and early points on the board to overturn expectations.
But really, all this is background noise to the only thing which matters, which is the FFA Cup. Because the Bergers won the national NPL playoffs last year, Victoria gets an extra FFA Cup spot in 2018, though I'm not sure how FFV will go about sorting out qualification in the event that Heidelberg also make it to the final four/Dockerty Cup stage.
It's a Greek, Greek, Greek, Greek World
To bring it back for a moment to the composition of the league, which is now seven Greek teams out of fourteen competitors. Half! We have the president, we have connections, and we've been dominating on-field as well.
- 2013 - Grand final winner, Northcote, runner up Bentleigh, preliminary final South Melbourne
- 2014 - (no finals), 1st South, 2nd Oakleigh, 3rd Heidelberg, 4th Bentleigh
- 2015 - Grand final winner Bentleigh, runner up South (minor premier), 3rd place Heidelberg. South and Oakleigh also in the Dockerty Cup final
- 2016 - Grand final winner South, runner up Oakleigh, losing semi-finalists Heidelberg and Bentleigh. Bentleigh won the Dockerty Cup final.
- 2017 - South, Heidelberg and Bentleigh top three, and Bentleigh and Bergers in the Dockerty Cup final.
Assorted social media stuff
The media interest in the lead up to this season has been very subdued, to the point of being invisible That goes for the clubs as much as it does for FFV and even the Corner Flag site. What has caused this I don't know, but there appears to be a general torpor around promotion of the league. Now regular readers will know that I'm as fond of an existential languor as anyone - indeed, I've inadvertently based my life's philosophy upon it - but you can't help feel it's not exactly what we should be aiming for.
Anyway, some people out there maybe want to keep in touch with league happenings outside the weekend, or wish to enhance their local soccer experience by the use of social media.
For those playing along on Twitter, this year there is no major sponsor for the competition, and thus the #PS4NPLVIC hashtag is dead. For the time being, we've been instructed to use #NPLVIC. There may be a naming rights sponsor signed up eventually, which would see the hashtag change again.
Though the state leagues starting date is still a month away, if you happen to be at a state league game, following the @ffv365 account is the best way to keep up to date with live scores from the state leagues, though the account can be a bit erratic in how promptly it retweets scores. If you happen to be a Twitter user at a state league game, and you wish to note a goal in a tweet to get retweeted by the FFV account, use @FFV365 not #FFV365.
Of course, the best way to keep up to date with NPL and NPL2 scores as they happen is the Futbol24 app. Berate the gamblers as I do, their interest in our leagues seems to surpass that of most organisations. If you find the FFV sites a bit of a mess to use for scores and ladders, the UK soccer pools site Soccer Aust has a crummy, ancient look, but excellent usability.
FFV will once again be broadcasting games on internet radio via the Mixlr app, with games also streamed at mixlr.com/ffvradio/. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but the commentary teams are good, and sometimes there's even a bit of audience interactivity.
As for the Facebook and Instagram people, I couldn't care less about those mediums, so you're on your own there. A lot of clubs seem to prefer Facebook for news and score updates, but I've made my choice of preferred social media tools, and I stick by that decision.
Contribute to South of the Border
As always, the opportunity is there for readers to contribute to South of the Border, in whatever way you can think of that won't get me sued, or which doesn't come across as a sovereign citizen style rant against FFA or whatever - that's what Twitter is for. Ongoing or one-off contributions welcome.