Thursday, 24 December 2009

Melbourne Knights dig hole to 1987. Or something.


I'm bored. I don't like Christmas, the FFV didn't manage to get the 2010 VPL fixtures out before they went on their well deserved 18 month break, and I'm getting over some sort of short lived but kinda punchy flu thing. People also aren't sending me their Offset reports so I can make a pretty folder for next year's group, so it will likely appear that I am writing more nonsense than usual.

The Main Part

It's not often that it happens, but every now and again we at South of the Border like to take a look at what's happening at place that aren't South Melbourne. Because you know, we love to whinge about the board, the team, about losing our Greekness, and that most cardinal of sins, selling out to THE (Zionist) MAN, that sometimes we forget how good we have it compared to others.

We could talk about Preston sinking to State League 1, but there for the grace of Dawkins go I and all that. We could talk about Heidelberg's endless shenanigans, but that would necessitate a whole other blog - try out their HUFC-TV, if it's still working, for how not to do a vodcast. Or we could we like the remnants of the once mighty Brunswick Juventus, broken into a million pieces and scattered across this great brown land, one team with the trophies, one team with the grounds, one team with the colours, and several other clubs blended, decanted and spat out along the way. Or George Cross, who owned their own ground, seemingly never made an improvement to it in the 25 or so years they were there, sold it 15 times, boast that at least they had their own venue, but don't seem from an outsider's point of view to know where they're going, what they're doing, and are more akin to being the mule with the spinning wheel.

But instead we'll talk about the attempted regeneration of what was once a mighty foe, who like us was dumped from the top flight or humbly chose to withdraw from those aspirations, depending on whose version of events you go by. The glory days of the Melbourne Knights - or Melbourne Croatia as they were once known - are long gone, especially from the heady on field days of the mid 1990s, where their machine, by a probable combination of good management and fortune took all before it, before its best and brightest left to light up the world's football stage.

After a decade's worth of decline on the park and off it, as the local Croatian community, with a newly independent homeland secured and the relative flood of immigration drawing to a mere trickle - pretty much like every other European community - local crane entrepreneur and alleged underworld identity Matt Tomas took over with a plan. The plan was to take the Knights forward, into the boldness of tomorrow. There were tangible differences and speculative fairytale stuff that's harder to pin the compass of truth on. The more or less truth. More money was splashed around, and results, at least initially, seemed to improve. They got to a grand final, which they lost in the 120th minute. They got massive sponsors on board, including online gaming behemoth Mansion88 - who also sponsor the Tottenham Hotspur - and they even repainted the Mark Viduka Stand - hell, they even got Mansion88 as the ground's naming rights sponsor.

Off the field, the stories flew into FourFourTwo Australia's inbox thick and fast. They were going to move to Melton. They would be part of the 2nd Melbourne A-league licence bid. They'd become a feeder to Adelaide United, after Tomas and friends would take it over. Stuff like that. Stuff that seemingly never happened. And to do all that, the club would have to be de-Croatianised. A club which, even in the heady mainstreaming days of the NSL, barely made a tokenistic effort to open up - and it was their absolute right not do to so - was heading head first into the future. And the majority of its support base, those that were left anyway, were not impressed. Every club must have a reason for being. The reason doesn't always stay the same, but there must be something to underpin why anyone would bother to turn up and do what needs to be done to keep such an operation in motion. The reasons that Tomas and his board provided - a board that included former South board member Jim Marinis - didn't seem to wash with the majority of the diehards.

And so, at their recent AGM, Tomas and friends seemingly left, and the vacuum was filled by other people, with a new agenda. Well, perhaps not so much a new agenda, but rather a very old one. To go back to the past, and to do it unapologetically. An old logo, with the grb's checkerboard pattern replacing David Hill's mandated diamond scheme. A membership campaign highlighting the importance and centrality of the club to Australian Croatian identity, and the importance of Croatian identity to the club. A Croatian club for Croatians - pretty much everyone won't be excluded as a matter of practice, but the emphasis has been turned inward - while most of the old school wog clubs of any note have dithered on which direction to take - the vague promises of the future or the direction the Knights have chosen. Will it work? I have my doubts. It all seems too much like St George Budapest circa 1975, but with even less optimism and less opportunity to make something great out of it. It all seems rather reactionary than anything resembling a genuine plan.

What does this have to do with South? Well apart from them stealing entire passages from our own membership campaigns - see the 'Member get member section' of their 2010 membership brochure - it provides a chance for the two different reactions to the post-NSL landscape to be somewhat compared. Of course, the clubs come from different angles, have always had different reasons for being, and substantially different cultures - but it'll be interesting to see if either plan works. South's 'Need more Greeks' contingent is largely defeated, but as the events of the recent 2009 finals loss to Hume showed, sadly not entirely gone (Shane Nunes was racially abused by a couple of our so called fans, as well as hearing the catch cry of needing more Greeks who'd play with passion for the shirt, allegedly).

And it also shows two clubs who, in spite of the FFV's utter neglect in promoting or reforming the VPL, are at least taking matters into their own hands. It's not always entirely someone else's fault when things go wrong. Sometimes it can even be no one's fault at all. But at least taking a stance, following one direction, wherever it may lead, is a sign that these two clubs at least are seeking to take control of their own destiny. It's easier for some than others, of course. Cash, cultures, locations, history and demographic compatibility with the urgency of now, plus the question of how long committees with grand dreams can be held together. We'll see in time where it all ends up. And here I was thinking there wouldn't be anything to write about for the next couple of weeks.


  1. Hi there

    I believe that you know very well about Goran Zoric, right?

    Is he a very good midfielder? How old is he?

    My name is Tony. I'm so interested in this player at the moment because I've just heard that he's now in Bangkok and going to sign a contract with Police United FC soon.

    BTW, your blog is awesome!!!

  2. Good article

    Always an ability to analyse sporting leagues. I love looking at the historical ploys and cultures that move a football club and it was very much evident that Knights supporters were very much disheartened when I went to their home ground in June and Hellas fans nearly outdrew the Knights.


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