Firstly, a happy Lunar New Year to all our readers who observe that custom.
Well, after so far in 2014 putting out teams mostly made up of triallists and youth players, a good part of South's actual legit senior squad got a bit of a run yesterday, in a typically scratchy debut for pre-season 2014.
It was bloody hot yesterday. Both teams did their warm-ups in the limited shade in the back corners of SS Anderson Reserve. For the spectators, it was actually quite pleasant under the social club roof, though the lack of food was kind of a bummer.
Olympia came out a bit all guns blazing in the first 10 minutes, which seemed a bit foolhardy considering the conditions. They probably should have had a goal though during that early period, as the somewhat makeshift South defense was basically all over the shop.
Eventually though the tide turned, and South went into the break up 2-0 courtesy of Tyson Holmes and triallist striker Rodrigo Covarrubias. Milos Lujic hit the woodwork about 3-4 times in the first half and also had a penalty saved. There was another moment as well where a perfect cross should have been converted into an almost empty net but was headed straight at the keeper.
The second half was more of the same. As the game wore on South chucked on a few more triallists and youth players, several of whom have probably already played at least one game this week. Olympia's defensive line started getting out of shape quite badly, leading to some very poor defending and a cracker of an own goal (think Ljubo's from last season).
From what I can understand Olympia, a mid ranking team in Tasmania's NPL who had some cup successes in 2013, have lost a few key players. There were some occasional nice moves and counter attacks, and Olympia's late goal, when it came, was well deserved. Indeed they probably should have had a 2-3 more by the end of the day, but when they got into dangerous positions they more often than not looked a little bit clueless as to what to do next.
If this sounds like Olympia/Tasmanian soccer bashing, well it's not meant to be. Olympia haven't been one of the best Tasmanian soccer teams for some years now, but they put up a much better fight than when we visited them in 2011. It's just that the gulf in class was still evident. Tasmania's 2014 season should be interesting though, as a couple of their teams look to splash the cash a little bit in order to see if they can finally knock South Hobart off their perch. Judging by this performance (and should we even be doing that?), Olympia won't be one of those teams.
For South, Lujic looked good while still being obviously in cruise control. I'm not convinced yet by Covarrubias as a potential striking partner for Lujic, and was also surprised to see former South player Jason Ricciuti being out there, who got credited with one of the second half goals.
I still think we probably need a keeper (potential recruit Gonzalez from Gully ended up re-signing there), and a better striking partner for Lujic, but other than that, I think we're OK. The problem is, that if there's 14 teams in the league in 2014 (assuming we're in it, of course), that's already four extra games to take into account, plus maybe finals, Dockerty Cup, FFA Cup (?!) and NPL Champions League (are they still doing that?).
More games is good for us punters, and good for the players who I'm sure want to play as much as possible. But it obviously leads then to the fact that you then need more cover for injuries and suspensions, while also taking into account that under NPL rules, your match day squad has to come from the 20 players you've registered, or one of your youth team squads. And at the same time, you've got to plan for the future, for when the NPL player points cap get reduced from 275 to 200 in two or three years time.
In an interesting aside, it appears as if former 21s and 18s coach Gus Caminos has departed to take up the senior coaching position at Malvern - and he's taken some of the 21s players with him. Wish them all the best and all that, and wouldn't mind making a rare trip or two out to the south-eastern leagues to have a look at them this coming season.