Sunday, 4 May 2014

Did I mention the rain enough times? Ballarat Red Devils 1 South Melbourne 2

The temporary stand felt temporary, the grass on the field was in magnificent condition, and our under 20s had lost the curtain raiser 3-1 without managing to score a goal of their own making. So everything necessary was in place for Ballarat's first home game of the season and the first official fixture at their new Morshead Park venue.

Good luck trying to get a coherent match report out of me this week. I ended up behind the goals in both halves, so that meant our view for most of the game wasn't crash hot. And then it rained, and there were umbrellas, and I had lent my umbrella to some other South bloke because he didn't have squat and I was then forced to hide under Gains' golf umbrella, and forget it. All you need to know was that it got very, very wet, very, very quickly, and pretty much didn't stop for the rest of the afternoon.

Michael Eagar controls the ball, before putting it back into
the six yard box... Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
While it wasn't raining during the opening 20-odd minutes, we managed to score twice, putting in much the same sort of style of play that we did the last time we played these guys. Milos Lujic managed to score an easy one after good play to release him into space; and Jamie Reed scrambled the ball over the line, after Michael Eagar controlled the ball at the back post from a corner and put the ball back into the six yard box.

...where Jamie Reed waits to pounce on the scraps, making
the score 2-0 to South. Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
Reed also hit the crossbar with a dipping shot - they were using the Brazuca balls that will be used for the World Cup this year, which swerved a lot despite the slippery conditions - and Lujic had an empty net chance ruled out for offside, which I have no idea whether it was or not, but no one seemed too flustered by the decision. There was a very good diving save from Ballarat keeper Aaron Romein to deny an effort that was heading into the bottom corner.

Things turned towards the end of the first half when we coughed up a free kick on the edge of the area - it didn't seem like a free kick to many of us at the time - and Dane Milovanovic hit a great shot into the opposite top corner. I reckon Jason Saldaris got a hand on to it, but regardless there was little he could do to keep it out. To be fair, we had taken our foot off the throat by that point anyway, which was disappointing because it's happened so many times this season in the middle of matches.

The start of the second half saw us reclaim the ascendancy, though without the clear cut chances that we had created in the first half. Ballarat then took over, without creating pretty much any clear cut chances that I can recall, aside from some crosses that went flashing across goal. Of more concern was the way we were - or rather weren't - adjusting to the conditions. Instead of trying to play simply, we tried to play a fancy short pass gimmick sort of game, which didn't help our cause most of the time. Reed and Tyson Holmes both picked up injuries, which will start to test our depth if serious.

Even when the sun came out, it just kept on raining.
Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
We managed to hold on though, having played 30 odd minutes of very good football, and 60 odd minutes of less than stellar stuff. So, seven from seven and four points clear of second placed Oakleigh, who are firing on all cylinders at the moment. While we may have broken our 1960 record for best start to a season, we can't rest on our laurels even for a second, because the chasing pack is not far away - though Bentleigh's loss at Green Gully was a welcome event.

The spirit of Ballarat is the spirit of Australia
Gimme shelter
We're not quite one to talk, what with us still not having a social club, but what kind of official opening has the ground half-finished? The outer hills were roped off, possibly because they recently had new grass seedlings sown into them. The temporary stand, while adequate in terms of seating function, offered absolutely no protection from the rain, and especially for the film and stat contingent of our media team.
The FFV seemed to have set up a marquee of some sort, which I suppose people could have gatecrashed but at the cost of the view, and the main pavilion wasn't complete, so no one could use that either. I'm sure once it's actually finished it'll be a good facility (though I'm not sure how the shelter situation will be sorted), but it was disappointing that it wasn't finished.

Local tastes
Having heard rumours that Ballarat once provided, but had then stopped offering chips and gravy as part of their canteen offerings, my expectations were low. And so it came to pass, as the menu was indeed quite limited and pedestrian: pies, chips, hot dogs, dim sims etc. Not a souvlaki or a cevapi roll in sight. I went for the hot dog, which didn't kill me - take note Green Gully. The pre-match musical offering was also a little different - rather than our awful house music selections, they went more for the old school bogan theme - Guns 'n' Roses, AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd etc.

Indigenous literature of Ballarat
They had a match programme ($3) which was quite acceptable, especially with their statistical offerings, including crowds. According to said match programme, on their away trips the biggest crowd Ballarat faced - aside from our 1300 odd - was at Green Gully, with about 470 people. Green Gully may have no fans, but on this measure they seem to have had more of them than Northcote, Heidelberg, Pascoe Vale and Goulburn Valley. The match programme also had a major typo in the coach's and president's messages, with 'Morshead' becoming 'Morehead' - which is incredibly juvenile for anyone to point out, but also an insult to our veterans.

Won't someone please think of the children?
The poor Ballarat ball kids. I'm not against their presence out there, but at least give them some sort of wet weather gear to protect them from the elements.

Rules change in the Reaches
Seeing as the VPL was such a Melbourne competition, the adjustment to the NPL has brought with it one unpleasant development - home town refereeing. Maybe this is, as in the words of the Ballarat faithful, a lot of sooking, but it appears as if the handball rule hasn't made it out there just yet. Or maybe they were actually refs from Melbourne and didn't think the rules were breached on those occasions, under the particular circumstances that refs will tell you handball has to occur for it to be called as such. Apparently cradling the ball in both hands in the penalty box doesn't count.

Add to this Aaron Romein getting away with hitting 9/10 of his goalkicks while the ball was still moving. I think he got called out for it by the ref once. After another dreadful call with the requisite whinging by South fans, one of the Ballarat smartalecs yelled out 'stop your sooking', to which one of our own wits replied, 'well at least we get to home to Melbourne after this', which was perhaps a little harsh but seemed a fitting response at the time.

And then there's this, which doesn't fit into anything in particular
This was tweeted by FFV correspondent (and reader of the blog) Steven Chang

Next week
First up we're away Berwick City in the Dockerty Cup on Wednesday, then back home for our biggest test of the season thus far against Bentleigh Greens. While we should not take Berwick lightly, it will be a chance for some of the players currently on the outer - Tsiaras, Mullett, Minopoulos, Maynard, Boaheme etc - to get a bit of a run. The second match should be our toughest test to date. Bentleigh are coming off their first loss of the season, and will be looking to make up the gap between themselves and ourselves as quickly as possible.

Public transport thoughts
Let's get the hate mail out of the way early on.
Anyway, VLine is great. Comfy seats, properly heated trains, numerous sheep sightings, and a severe lack of metropolitan rail network type arseclowns. A solid 90 minute trip from Spencer Street, where I got to meet some bloke (a former train conductor apparently) who told me he had a book collection in the realms of 60,000 items, as well as having once associated with the persons in Frank Hardy's circle. Also, we agreed that the VFL was complicit in destroying the VFA.

Getting to the ground from Ballarat Station was a different matter. Forgoing the cab option - even though it was like, right there outside the station - we decided to walk around looking for the number 13 bus. Well, eventually we found it, but we had missed it. Instead, we took up the offer of the bloke driving the number 14 bus to drop us off near Morshead Park, even though there wasn't an actual legitimate bus stop there. That's old fashioned country hospitality right there.

From there, it was a relatively short walk  around the greyhound track to the ground. I can't say much for the trip back into the Ballarat city centre - huge thanks to Con, who gave us a lift back - but I can't imagine it would have been that much more to find a bus ot get us back, although the rain would have things less pleasant.

From the station we headed out to Sturt Street for a feed, stopping at the quite good in terms of food and value for money Aroma of India restaurant, and when we got back to the station, the severely delayed train arrived a few minutes after we got there, which was rather convenient.

So all in all my thoughts are that if you want to take public transport out there for a game:
  • allow extra time than you would then if you were driving, which is the same as with most public transport really.
  • plan ahead - make sure you know how the hell you're going to get to and from the ground once you get to Ballarat.
  • add an incentive like staying back a bit longer for some dinner, or get there earlier for lunch, because frankly the Ballarat canteen's offerings are pretty average.
The train trip home at night through the countryside is more akin to hurtling through the infinite void - perhaps as close to being on the Federation Starship Enterprise as I'm likely to get - with only the occasional signal light to break up the darkness until you get closer to Melbourne.

Lastly, Ballarat Station's vending machines are fantastic, and I'm kinda regretting not splurging a little. Chocolate prices from about 10 years ago, and chicken Twisties alongside the usual cheese flavoured ones. Now that's something you don't see every day.

More letters, more often
Remember the letter writing campaign with regards to the lease and social club issue I tried to get kickstarted a little while back? Well, as many of you will recall, I did get a response to that letter from the Minister for Sport and Recreation, Hugh Delahunty, and as it turns out, so did some other people, who apparently received near identical responses.

And while that was encouraging from the point of view of other South fans doing their bit, that encouragement was tempered by the lack of a response to the letter I sent to the shadow minister John Eren. So partly because Martin Foley, the member for Albert Park, seemed well intentioned but otherwise uninformed about the situation, and partly because the promised update from the club has yet to materialise (maybe nothing new to report? A worry in itself), I'm trying again. This time I've included a copy of the Delahunty letter, and asked Eren what his party's position is on the matter. Hopefully this time I get a response, and if I do, I will be putting it up here as per Delahunty's response.

All of this was prior to the breakout of a 'debate' on smfcboard about what we should do, which although it elicited some good points on both sides of the matter, also degenerated into name calling and personal attacks. The middle road path seemed to be the one most supported, in that in general few were seeking the violent overthrow of a nightmarish regime, but on the other hand they did want more information on what exactly was going on.

South of the Border Media Watch
ABC News Breakfast's, FourFourTwo's, SBS's and FFA's crime against (NSL) humanity
While sitting on the couch last Tuesday morning around 7:25, I was watching ABC News Breakfast as is my habit. Fill-in sports presenter Sharelle McMahon read out the news that Thomas Broich had won the Johnny Warren Medal. My response to that was going to be a huge 'meh', until McMahon said that Broich was the first player to win two Johnny Warren Medals.

I thought that maybe I'd heard wrong, so I waited until the 7:50ish sports bulletin to see if she would repeat the mistake, but there was no sports bulletin. So I then waited for the 8:25 bulletin, and sure enough the mistake was made again. So I did what any anorak with a smartphone would do: I made a tweet on the matter.
FourFourTwo Oz's effort wasn't much better.
And to demonstrate the pitfalls of being an internet smartalec, I left out Damian Mori, probably because of the intense partisan hatred I was suffering at the time - and besides, who the fuck is Damian Mori, apart from the all-time leading Socceroos goalscorer for many years and one of the greatest domestic Australian soccer players of all time. And who are those other bums anyway? A Wollongong bus driver, a guy who chose to be an accountant rather than try his luck overseas, and some half Cro, half Ukrainian bloke from Keilor.

SBS' World Game website sinks to new lows.
And then we played the waiting game. The 8:50 sports update arrived and 'first player to win two Johnny Warren medals' became 'only player to win two Johnny Warren Medals'. FourFourTwo was a little more cautious in its approach - it stated that Broich was the first A-League player to win the award twice - but further down in its article on all the award winners, it mentions only the A-League winners of the award.

Most disappointing was SBS' effort on their World Game site - I mean, if there was one media organisation that should know better, it should be SBS, but that's how low they've sunk these days. But then again, how much can one expect of the ABC's typically substandard soccer reporting, or the New Dawn leaning FourFourTwo, or even the 'what agenda should be push this week?' SBS when the governing body can't even get their details right. Pay attention to the sentence in bold underneath the photo of Broich.

The cynics might say that this is just another example of the whitewashing of  Australian soccer history, but since we're all friends again thanks to the FFA Cup, let's just put it down to someone - maybe the work experience kid, who wouldn't know what an NSL was even if it lit 25 flares and started a riot in their living room - who could do better next time.

So another lesson in futility, which did nonetheless allow me to take an accidental trip down memory lane, as I recalled that I created the original version of the Johnny Warren Medal page on Wikipedia back in October 2006. How good was it? It didn't even include references, just information that I took verbatim from OzFootball.

Special mention to the Herald Sun's David Davutovic, who broke the mould and went the opposite way, by listing all the NSL 'player of the year' winners back to 1977, even those who won the award before the Johnny Warren Medal officially came into existence.

On a more serious note
Still on the Johnny Warren Medal. If the late Johnny Warren has indeed been beatified by many involved with Australian soccer - and I think a strong argument could be made that this is exactly what has happened - then surely his position as patron saint of Australian soccer should belong to all Australian soccer fans, and not just those who happen to be in power or are enjoying some ascendancy at this moment.

And if that is the case, then the very least anyone could ask for as part of this beatification process is that the medal which bears Warren's name have its full history acknowledged, not to make me or other bitters happy, but because those players who won this award during the NSL era were as worthy of it as those who have followed them in the A-League era.

Final thought
Thanks to the players - I assume urged by captain by Michael Eagar - for coming over and thanking the traveling South fans behind the northern goal after the game. Unlike some others, I don't tend to demand such behaviour, and certainly not every week, but it was an appropriate impromptu moment, which made the day just that little bit more worthwhile.


  1. Update I received from the club is that Delahuntly is retiring, and the discussions have been/will be handballed to his incumbent, Damien Drum. Club "will be meeting with him soon".
    Might be worth starting another letter writing campaign for Mr Drum.

    1. Interesting news anonymous. I wonder though how much of this belligerence is being driven by the minister himself as opposed to the relevant departments. Well, here's hoping that the possible change may help push matters along in our favour.

    2. Yep, can imagine Delahuntly sailing into retirement in cruise control and not bothering himself with any ongoing battles that won't be resolved on his watch.

    3. And sorry for the repeated "Delahuntly" typos. Not sure why I continually add that extra "L".

    4. Subconscious reference to Glenhuntly perhaps?

      Anyway, where would the internet be without typos?

  2. The club took on the FFV over the NPL , dragged them to court and fu..ked them
    They need to do the same to the state govt unless they honour what was signed off by the previous state govt

    Enough of diplomacy & letters & softly softly crap

    Smfc member
    Bill A

    1. We did not go to court over the NPL as I recall. FFA intervention after FFV onesidedly announced NPL not happening.

      When we went to court was over the 6 points deduction. Won the battle lost the war.

    2. 'We' did go to court last year, sorta, to get the injunction, but we never got to the really expensive Supreme Court stuff.

  3. Good one bill, and when we lose the ground entirely at least we can say we took them on... Get serious

  4. I like Joe.

    I also like this.

    Best Twitter stoush
    Scott Munn and George Calombaris, who traded insults over Melbourne Heart and Melbourne Victory. Munn made fun of Victory's 5-0 loss to Wellington Phoenix (despite Heart being bottom of the table), Calombaris called him 'Mr Munt' and the best part was when South Melbourne fans accused Calombaris of being a traitor to Hellenism because of his new loyalty to Victory. Not to be outdone, Richard Garcia and Jerome Polenz's little internet battle was also good fun

    Calombaris is emblematic of all that is wrong with modern Hellenism in this country. A non Greek speaking, non South Melbourne Hellas supporting, Reality tv hosting, celebrity who wants to 'remove constraints' from the wage sector (in other words, workers should be paid less at his restaurants.)

    btw.... How about a weekly open forum? Or have I asked this before?

    Savvas Tzionis

    1. That twitter stoush was a bit of a clusterfuck.


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