Thursday, 31 July 2014

Pascoe Vale fixture change

Please note that tomorrow's game against Pascoe Vale will now kickoff at 7:30pm, and not 8:30pm as originally scheduled.

In addition, the under 20s curtain raiser will not be played on Friday. It has been moved to Sunday August 3rd, with kickoff at 3:15.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Street Art artefact Wednesday - South Melbourne Market mural

This is a bit of a throwback to 2006, and something I've wanted to upload for a while - all part of the preservation process. I nicked this version of the following article from this page, which seems to predate the actual composition of the piece.

Well, let us spray
Kelly Ryan 
July 24, 2006
A SUREFIRE way of beating graffitists at their own game is simply to paint them out of the picture.
That is partly why a group of would-be artists sacrificed a Sunday sleep-in to start work on an important new mural in South Melbourne yesterday. 
Sponsored by Metlink, the City of Port Phillip and Whitelion -- a charity that helps disadvantaged youth going through the justice system -- the mural aims to give the teens a sense of pride in their local community. 
Armed with dozens of spray-paint cans, the group will spend the next few days bringing to life some of South Melbourne's landmarks. 
The market and its produce, the beach and South Melbourne Soccer Club will all be brightly depicted on walls at the light-rail stop.
Organisers take some comfort from street lore, which says illegal graffiti artists rarely deface official murals.

The coolest thing about the mural from our perspective is that we are placed in equal importance with the South Melbourne/Sydney Swans, a poignant reminder that Hellas - and to a lesser extent, soccer in general - have been in the area for a long time. Now if only we could get some South Melbourne Hellas/FC branding onto Lakeside

The mural as seen from the South Melbourne Station tram stop on Route 96. Unfortunately, I can't remember where I sourced the photo from. Click the image to enlarge the photo.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Point gained or two points squandered? Northcote City 1 South Melbourne 1

Ever get the feeling you've seen the same game twice? That was one of the feelings I had after this game, mostly because it was not that much different to the one I'd seen the night before (see the 'around the grounds' section for a roundup of that game).

The pitch was not in good condition. In fact it was probably the worst playing surface I'd seen all season, but more on that later. Actually, fuck it, let's digress two paragraphs into the report.

Oh, but when I write this stuff...
Kudos to whoever was running the official South Facebook page yesterday when the content on the right was posted.

While it's not like Northcote or any other club goes out of their way to present such a shocking surface for a game, the 'equestrian' backhander in this official piece of SMFC communication is nevertheless one small step for man, and one giant leap for bloggers who now know that their formerly unsanctioned pettiness may well end up having a professional outlet and maybe even a media pass. OK, maybe not a media pass.

Suffice to say that while more than one person who ventured out to John Cain mentioned that there was far more grass (and weeds, and clover) on the outer hills than on the playing arena, probably no one expected Pravda the South official site to come out and say something of this nature, especially since the Lakeside surface hasn't been in that great a condition itself in recent weeks.

And what credentials does whoever came up with the equestrian comment have to make that call? Ah, the questions that keep you up at night.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programme
Chris Taylor offers to sell you a genuine Rollex watch, just
like the moviestars wear. Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
You make decisions all the time about how you're going to approach a game, and that goes for the fans as well. That's why I didn't rock up with an umbrella. Nevertheless I had decided on being one of the hardcore morons and not only standing on the outer, but also going behind the goals where we spent so many games during our relocation residency. Sure the city silhouette is pretty from the grandstand, the crossbar at the carpark end obscures the view something terrible and the rain made things miserable and cold and hard to see, but it's what you have to do sometimes to prove how big of a supporter you are. Also, you get closer to Clarendon Corner and their in joke chants.

Tim Mala was out due to getting five yellows, so Shaun Timmins moved over to right back while Brad Norton came back into the side in his once customary left back position. For them, Trent Rixon was a no show. The first half was crap. Nothing of any particular note happened. Oh wait, I bought a packet of B or C grade snakes from the nutseller, which helped keep the sugar levels up for a while, and when distributed to all manner of South folk at the game, they won me the fame and admiration of all who had the fortune of eating one. Well, at least for as long as the cheap flavouring lasted.

Milos Lujic celebrates scoring his 15th league goal for the
season. Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
The second half saw us not only get on top, but also create several chances. We kept getting closer, but perhaps the ground made us wary of taking that first time shot, because we just kept waiting and waiting for the perfect opening instead of a good enough opening. Eventually Tyson Holmes slipped a ball through for Milos Lujic who tucked it away into the corner, and the crowd behind the goals went wild. Unfortunately not long afterwards calamitous defending from seemingly everyone in our back half led to Northcote equalising. I couldn't tell what happened or who was responsible, but we probably deserved to cop the goal just for the slapstick attempt at defending, especially the way Jason Saldaris was running from one end of the box to the other.

Was the foul in the box? Outside the box? Did the Northcote player trip over the ball? Did Norton get the ball? Was there a trailing leg, and should that matter? Saldaris guessed right, maybe even got a hand on to it, but it went in anyway. Northcote almost took the lead which would have been a criminal outcome, but instead we still had the best chances to win the game after that. Holmes sent a shot wide from a tight angle, and Lujic had too much time and ended up squandering a one on one chance.

On exiting the ground I found out that my earphones had carked it and I had to deal with stupid reality on the way home. Also, Oakleigh's 2-1 win over Bentleigh means the gap between us has closed to seven points with seven games to play.

Next week
Pascoe Vale away on Friday night. Yes, yes, I know, we're all mostly looking to the woodfired pizza. Three points? Not before I get a charcoaled crust on my margherita goddammit.

We had been scheduled to play Bentleigh on Tuesday, but that has been moved to Wednesday August 6th due to some reason or other.

Player Points tallies revealed! Maybe!
I like to give them a bit of stick when they deserve it, but on this front at least FFV have come through with the goods. Well, sort of. They've provided not only the tallies but also the breakdowns of each NPL and NPL1 squad player by player. Here then are the NPL squad tallies, and here are the NPL1 squad tallies.

'Dick, you ever wonder what it would be like if FFV was a
competent organisation?'
'Say, that's dangerous thinking Paul; you best stick to your work'
'Ha, OK'
If we are to take the documents at face value, then we are at the higher end of the NPL table, with 230 points used up from our available 275. By comparison our nearest competitor on the ladder, Oakleigh Cannons, have 235, but they have also used a marquee qualification on Nate Foster. Quite why we don't have a marquee allocation, I don't know.

Of more concern for us is that we have only two 'home grown' players, and they are goalkeeper Chris Maynard, who's only there as back up and not seeing any game time, and Dion Kirk who was added to the youth squad and then promoted through to the twenty man NPL senior squad to exploit a loophole which also saves him from being counted as a switching player. Andrew Kecojevic, at 16 years of age, is the only other player we have as deducting points from the overall tally.

It will be very interesting to see how this works from next year onwards, when switching players will accrue points from the start of the season as opposed to midway through this season, and when the players points cap starts falling (if it starts falling). Of course, there are those who have savaged the accuracy of this data set, claiming variously that it is:
  • Wrong
  • Embarrassingly wrong
  • Prone to errors in part to due to allowing clubs to self report their squad details.
  • Prone to error because the FF V has no idea how to count, let alone understand how its own system works.
In which case there's probably no point in worrying too much about whether any of the data means anything at all, other than how are we ever going to do this NPL thing the way it was sort of intended if we can't get one of its core elements even remotely right.

As for me, I'm now waiting with baited breath for the results of the facilities audit to be released.

You can't fire me, because I quit!
No more stats, as Steve from Broady - aka Big Griff - has either been made redundant or has quit in disgust for some reason. Of course, these only existed on this blog for the past season because of the fact that he was providing them for the club, but we'll still be sad that they'll no longer be a part of this site. As for Steve's media commitments on South Radio, I'm fairly certain he'll still be a part of that, as I've not heard otherwise.

Public transport changes
You may recall last week that I noted the change of the 112 tram to St Kilda - the tram that goes past Lakeside - has now changed and become a 12 tram to St Kilda. That was not the only change to the network though, with several routes having been changed. The only major changes I have been able to notice as relates to NPL people, is a change to Green Gully (which more or less leaves it at the same level of inconvenience) and Port Melbourne, which now requires you to take a different bus from a different location. Check our public transport guide for the relevant updates.

Around the grounds
The opposite of life is not death, it's indifference
Asked around, but no one seemed very interested in coming out to Port Melbourne vs Green Gully on Friday night. So it was just me and my soul crushing self--hatred and loneliness - and really, why else would someone choose to go to a game like this on their own? Gully had not much to play for, their annoying tendency to go on a barnstorming late run to another barely deserved title scuppered by the fact that in 2014 there will be no finals series. Port are trying to keep their heads above the relegation zone. The first half was a complete non event, so much so that even George, the well known bearded marshal at Port (also a big South fan) reckoned he was falling asleep. The second half was more worthwhile, as Port created several good chances and even took the lead. Sadly for the home team, Gully scored an equaliser late with what was probably their only real chance for the game. That's the way it ended, amid a brooding sense of irreversible decay; a small, disinterested crowd, a former commentator turned security guard, and the people at the gate not even bothering to hassle me about my FFV season pass as usually happens at Port.

Final thought
Sometimes, what happens at Paisley Park, stays at Paisley Park.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

(Un)Social Club Artefact Wednesday - The Maverick

The Maverick was the newsletter published by the then South Melbourne Supporters Group, a little of whose experience you can read about here, in an article we've reproduced from the old Studs Up magazine.

From my understanding - and I'm by no means an expert - the South Melbourne Supporters Group that existed at the time (a more low key version came into existence for a couple of years during the VPL era) seemed to be a collective of mostly young, progressively minded South fans. What seemed to unite them was:
  • That they were fed up with the way the club was being run
  • They were fed up with the idiots on the terraces who kept messing up
  • Their desire to see the club brought into the modern age and closer to mainstream Australia.
  • In addition to that, they wanted to and did contribute to the club as volunteers.
I don't know what happened to this group, its members and whether the people involved deemed their efforts a success. I think it's a story worth telling. If any member of this group has more information, and especially if they have old copies of The Maverick, or at least the rest of this one, I'd love you to get in touch. As part of my abstract goal of documenting and preserving South related articles and missives from independent, non-mainstream South and non-South related sources, I'd love to be able to add further depth and breadth to that history.

I'm not sure when or where I sourced this lone scan of the first page of The Maverick's first (only?) edition, but my suspicion is that I somehow got it off Damian Smith, the Australian soccer historian and creator of the first South website, among many, many other things.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

It's not about me and you; it's about us - South Melbourne 4 Melbourne Knights 3

I knew I should have headed out to Jack Edwards Reserves on Friday night, despite the cold and despite being utterly friendless. I'm hardly one for superstitions, but for some reason I thought there was a chance that Hume could do something - which is not far fetched, because any team at any time could do 'something' -  but whether that thing will actually happen is anyone's guess, and besides, Oakleigh have been smashing teams instead of just crawling over the line like we have been doing.

Well, Oakleigh lost 2-1 and I was spewing (metaphorically) that I missed it, in part because of the alleged post match, you wanna fight me cunt antics of the Cannons' keeper, but anyway the stage was set for South to make the most of that slip up or look like fools if we failed. The problem was that we were up against the other form team of the competition in the form of the Melbourne Knights who, if you care about omens - and I don't, honest - had knocked us out of the Dockerty and FFA Cup running in one fell swoop not too long ago, and had not lost to us yet at the redeveloped Lakeside.

But firstly, since no one else is going to comment on the Knights' away strip, it looks like I'm going to be the one who has to say it. Aside from the possible issue of fascist chic, I just reckon that the all black strip just looks stupid. Black is for refs. A city derby, such as the 'original' #melbderby has turned out to be, should be between red vs blue, the iconic intercity rivalry colours, made famous the world over by Bristol Rovers and Bristol City.

Guy Garvey reckons that the birds are the keepers of our
secrets, but I'm not sure he was including seagulls in that.
Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
I'm divulging this advice as a fashion icon in my own right, not out of hate, but because I care - and it's not like I haven't been in full support of your wonderful, crazy, FFA inclusiveness taunting (Inclusive means exclusive? What a country!), new dawner baiting antics with your FFA shirt design. Anyway, Matthew Theodore was on the bench, replaced by Tyson Holmes. No Leigh Minopoulos yet, but soon we hope. Milos Lujic had the first good chance, but Knights keeper Chris May saved well. He's been doing that a lot this season.

Shaun Timmins opened the scoring with the first of several comical goals in this game. A corner which floated to the back post was eventually worked to the to Timmins who cut in and scored with either a really crummy shot, or one that was deflected, or just nice low hard shot, take your pick, as either way it all seemed to happen in slow motion, but they all count the same.

Mark Oliver Everett can't look at the rocket launch, or the
the trophy wives of the astronauts, and he won't listen
to their words, because he likes birds. Strange philosophy.
Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
The Knights equalised thanks to mayhem on our left hand side, and the ball was bundled into the back of the net. While Tim Mala was having the better of our recent nemesis Shayan Alinejad for the first 30 minutes or so, Alinejad soon got on top, including one sequence of play where within the space of about 20 seconds he beat Mala twice on the sideline when there was nowhere for him to go (and while that was later more than matched by fancy foot skills by our own players, it still annoyed the crap out of me that it happened at all). In the second half, where Alinejad was switched over to Timmins' side, he was even more of a nuisance.

But before that we managed to get the lead back almost straight away, when Jason Saldaris or James Musa - and who cares really, they all look the same to me - sent a long ball forward which caught the visitors' defence napping but Jamie Reed well awake, and Reed slotted it home.

The third South goal, which arrived on the stroke of halftime, was even more hideous, when Lujic pounced on a loose ball which came at the end of a series of miscues to take us into the break 3-1 up. If there wasn't so much at stake, I would have been embarrassed to be scoring from those kinds of efforts. No, wait, that's not true. As some wise soul once said - I think it may even have been me, about three paragraphs up - they all count the same.

We went searching for the killer fourth goal after the break, but thanks to poor finishing did not find it. No matter, the two goal buffer should have been enough. Wrong, wrong, wrong, as Knights began exerting control over the game, indeed dominating the last twenty minutes or so where we scarcely had any meaningful possession except for counter attacks, and that jerk Alijenejad pulled it back to 3-2 with about ten minutes to play.

Just how do you commentate when you're in the shot?
It's a post modernist field day, with the host of SMFCTV.
Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
In the 90th minute Lujic made amends for his own wastefulness by finishing off a dead easy chance, and then we thought, cool, that was that, done and dusted, end of the game, let's go home and have a nap.

But as Bob Hale would say, not for long! Because Brad Norton, who came on as a late substitute for Shaun Timmins - and as it turned out, the only substitution South made - slipped over and helped Alinejad get the score back to 4-3, but that was close enough to the last kick of the game. Maybe it'll be a blessing in disguise, not allowing us to rest on our laurels. One can only hope so, because you're not going to get far if you're conceding three goals a game. Still, these things sometimes happen, and on two occasions where we've copped three goals this year we've still won. So maybe I should just shut up and be glad that we're nine points clear with eight games to play. That's just under a third of the season. Long way to go yet.

Now who wants to join my campaign to get the club to express mail copies of our last two games against the Knights to their FFA Cup opponent Brisbane Olympic, if not for the sake of Hellenic pride, than at least for former South player Rhys Meredith who's recently transferred to Olympic. You know it makes sense.

Next game
Northcote away on Saturday afternoon, our first time playing them this year despite it being round 19. That's the FFV's fixturing for ya. The start of a crucial three game away stretch.

Farewell, 112 Tram
For those that use public transport to get to South home games, the end of an era has arrived. From July 27th, the 112 West Preston - St Kilda as we know it will be no more.

Instead, the route to take in order to get to Lakeside will be the newly minted route 12 Victoria Gardens to St Kilda service. I believe that number is what the route used to be before it became the 112, but I didn't know the tram then.

The 112 has ferried me to and from Lakeside ever since my dad, uncle and cousins stopped coming to South games, though at least in my dad's case that's understandable, being a Berger and all.

On at Collins and Spencer, off at those stupid lights at the end of Clarendon Street. And on the way back, depending on the time a game finished, watching the restaurant trams float by, while waiting with assorted people now either too old or too young to drive, or otherwise physically or mentally incapacitated. Hell, some might just even be locals.

There were times, I admit, when I was less than faithful. If there was a drinking session pre-game at the Limerick, or on the rare occasions at the Water Rat, I would sometimes take the No. 1 tram. Sometimes if I missed the 112 on the way back, I would wander up to the 1 and see if that was more convenient than waiting around freezing my arse for no good reason.

But how many times did I miss the tram down to Lakeside because the Werribee train was incredibly mistimed with the 112? I also have my rule of, unless it's a real emergency, then I don't run for no public transport. St Albans station weaned me off running for trains, and the 112 weaned me off from running for trams. Then I just stopped running altogether, and the obesity crisis was all the better for it.

Neverthleless, this writer will miss the old 112, as we had some good times together, aside from the time I got fined because I didn't bother scanning my myki. Bad Paul, how embarrassment.
The crazy thing is, effectively nothing will really change, but that's melodrama for ya, and with three consecutive away games coming up, it'll be a while before we even get to use the new No. 12 for a South match.

Global warming of hearts
Whole driving back from Newport station after the game, or maybe it was on my way to Millers Street Maccas, whatever, I had it on 3XY Radio Hellas just to see what their take on the whole South kicking arse for the time being business was. Well, who should be on as a guest but our loveable larrikin president Leo Athanasakis, fresh back from a seven week holiday to Greece. Of more importance was the almost sickening

One Melbourne Knights mover and shaker I caught up with over the weekend said that South's relationships with its ethnic media was too hostile, which is a view held by some within what's left of our fandom. Still, it was interesting to hear both 3XY and Leo talk up the relationship in an increasingly sickening manner. 3XY extolled the hospitality that South always showed them, which is in huge contrast to the time they complained that they were treated like pariahs at Lakeside. Leo said that there was a new climate of friendship and understanding, or sentiments if not quite words to that effect

Where is the Kiss of Death?
Some of you have been asking about the Kiss of Death's whereabouts over these past few weeks. Well, I share those concerns, because the Kiss of Death has gotten very bad at even answering emails. However, I did manage to run into the Kiss of Death over the weekend, at an undisclosed time and location, and they assure me that once their personal workload eases up, they will be back.

Around the grounds
The more low rent something is, the more chance there is of me liking it 
Had the chance to head out to the state league 1 north-west top of the table clash between Moreland City and Preston, but instead decided to go to the battle at the bottom of the league between Sunbury United and Altona East. Before the game East were 10th of 12 and just outside the relegation zone, and Sunbury were 11th with only goal difference separating the two sides.

Here's a tip in the rare event that you choose to head out to Sunbury's Langama Park via public transport, on a suburban train that feels as if it'll fall apart it's going so fast - if possible, catch the bus from Sunbury station which ends up near the ground. Otherwise be prepared for a 20 minute, calf straining, uphill slog across terrain where often times the footpaths cease to exist. Thank goodness I got a lift back to Sunshine station after the game. The less said about that deathtrap roundabout at Gap Street the better.

Got there in time to watch the entirety of the second half of the reserves, which Altona East lost 3-1. Had myself a little bit of the local fare, in particular a rissole sandwich which was more or less a smallish homemade burger with coleslaw, with the overall effect of the tomato sauce and mayonnaise turning it into some sort of variation of a Hungry Jack's Whopper. Tasty in its own way, but pretty pricey at $6.50, but when a canteen doesn't list prices on its menu bill shock is always a very real possibility.

After channelling my inner George Costanza with a Twix, it was time for the senior game, introduced with 'You'll Never Walk Alone' over the speakers and a minute's silence for the victims of the MH17 disaster, with two of the victims being locals. East were clearly the better team in the first half and went into the break 1-0 up, and perhaps should have been further ahead. But Sunbury came out breathing fire after half time, and scored three times in what seemed like just a matter of minutes. A late own goal completed East's misery. East coach Terry Antoniadis reportedly resigned after the game.

Final thought
Not sure if they were pulling my chain, but was told that a couple of people had tossed around the idea of starting a Melbourne Knights variation of this blog. West of the Quarry? Now that I'd like to see.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Mid-season digression - Manly vs Wests

While I was in Sydney the other week for the Association for the Study of Australian Literature 2014 conference - an event filled with much interest, but probably not for people outside of that intellectual milieu, and besides, it could get messy - I wondered how I would spend my time outside the long conference hours.

Once my status as a presenter was confirmed, I looked ahead to the dates of the conference to see what kind of sporting events would be on, hoping for both an NRL match and an NPLNSW match. On the latter front, sadly the only available option was a Saturday night Marconi - Rockdale match, and without any of my possible Sydney contacts in town to get me there and back, that was going to be unlikely.

The one NRL match on the Friday or Saturday that I was in town was Manly vs Wests Tigers, which was good from the point of getting to see a Sydney suburban ground, but bad from the point of view of how was I meant to get out there on public transport? I'd been lead to believe that it was going to be a nightmare, but was pleased to find that there was actually a bus that went straight to Brookvale Oval from the city.

The task then became to find the place where the buses left from, because I didn't want to fork out cash to get from Museum to Wynyard station, because of the (as far as I know) lack of crossover of Sydney train and bus ticketing. So I ended up slogging it all the way up there, getting lost to the point where I ended up coming in from the north side of Carrington Street instead of the south (the direction I was heading from).

It took me a while to realise that I needed a prepaid ticket to get on, but where to get one from? There was a convenience store across the street, but where in Melbourne every two bit outlet where you could top up your Myki credit (or before thatl, purchase Metcard tickets) had a sign out the front letting you know you could do that there, Sydney in general is just too good for signs. Even street signs seem to turn up once every three or four blocks, and on occasion have to be searched for on buildings.

Road markings telling pedestrians to look left and/or right? Check. Signs telling you where you are? Get stuffed. Luckily, and perhaps logically due to its location, the convenience store did sell bus tickets, but this being Sydney where they apparently don't believe in return bus tickets, this meant getting two tickets instead of just one.

The only other time I'd been to a rugby league game was when I went to Australia vs England at AAMI Park back in 2010, and as discussed in this article, it was hardly the best or even most authentic introduction to the game for all sorts of reasons, so this was a chance to rectify that experience somewhat.

The stadium lights were incredibly bright, and even more unusually there was a sausage sizzle going on outside, possibly as a fundraiser of some sort. I didn't buy a snag, but at the same time I couldn't help but think that if this was the AFL, those people wouldn't be there, or anywhere within a kilometre of the ground for that matter.

While staring at the antique ticket booth a bloke came up to me claiming he had a spare ticket in the grandstand, and offered it to me for $30 instead of $40. It was like my Melbourne Rebels experience all over again, except this time time it would be tinged with a moderate bit of disappointment, as the seat turned out not to be in either of the two grandstands - one along a wing, one behind one of the goals - but instead in seating in front of the wing grandstand. Hey, it was two rows from the front, so it could have been worse but more on that later.

Brookvale may be described as Fortress Shithole by one of my rugby league following Twitter acquaintances, but really, I found it kinda charming. There was grandstand seating for those who wanted, cheaper exposed seating, and even a hill for those who wanted either a family day or just the right to stand and watch the game without being hassled or being squeezed in as you would be in most AFL standing room areas. Indeed, it felt a bit like a more upmarket NSL ground, which made it more endearing.

The game was supposed to start at 7:45 - it said as much on the scoreboard - , but was delayed for 15 minutes, probably because of the sick kid who was being flown in by helicopter onto the field. Tony Abbott was there, too, which makes sense because it's apparently his local electorate and all.

If you thought the atmosphere at the average AFL match was flat, being made up mostly these days of people there to socialise. the atmosphere at Brookvale was somehow worse. Like my previous and only other rugby league experience the game was a stinker, with Wests making error after error, but it was only the tries that actually managed to raise the cheers from the crowd, apart from a couple of early Manly chants.

In fact if wasn't for the three or four homophobic, racist and sexist dingbats sitting directly behind me there I would have heard barely a peep out of anyone. Their banter, such as it was, wasn't at the extreme end of things, but it stuck out because it was the kind of thing that AFL crowds nowadays more or less self-censor and self-polices. At least their mocking of Phil Gould was funny.

Of course, the NRL doesn't do itself any favours on these matters, and I'm specifically talking about the cheerleaders here, who were sitting right in front me near the ten metre line at the scoreboard end, and copped a fair bit of attention from the blokes behind me. I don't get why they're there. They basically do very little for most of the game, maybe get off their seats after every home team score, and do a little dance before the game and at halftime.

They provide nowhere near the entertainment or skill of their American counterparts. I doubt there's any bloke who specifically goes to a game to see them as opposed to the game itself, and I can't see the appeal to women or girls. If anything the experience of the several women and girls was probably made worse by the kind of attention the blokes behind me were giving to the cheerleaders, and then the pyrotechnic guys - and why does rugby league insist on fireworks for every game? - who came around for a photo.

Amid all this and the two Sea Eagles mascots - one of which inexplicably had a green beak and legs - there was a game on, a pretty one sided one as it happened as Manly destroyed their inept opponents. Last time I was at a rugby league match, I was on an elevated area behind the goals, which just didn't work. This time I was at a low level near the goal line, which also didn't really work. There were too many heads in the way, the ball got lost in a pile of bodies too often, and instead we watched what action we could on the scoreboard.

Indeed, the scoreboard at an NRL match gets more attention than at any other sport I've been to unless, I assume, you're sitting in a kick arse, elevated seat on the halfway line, and even then the video referee will take up a good ten minutes or more of the game day experience. Ah, the video referee. It is now the chief arbiter of the game. It almost seems pointless to abuse the officials on the field, even for non score related decisions, because in the end it will the video referee who will decide a team's fate more than anyone else.

Overall, the feeling was that rugby league was stuck between a rock and hard place in a cultural and commercial sense, and unable to decide upon its future. There are those who love their suburban grounds warts and all, but staying there won't grow the sport commercially or significantly increase attendances if that is at all possible. On the other hand, do Sydneysiders want to make their NRL experience a clone of the Melbourne AFL experience, with two grounds and no home ground identity?

That I didn't enjoy the game - apart from one late Manly try with a clever mini chip kick, followed by a grubber kick and then a kick off the ground before th try was scored - is beside the point. For the time being at least, the Sydney NRL experience has some soul left, in the suburban home grounds that are still being used and all the things that come with that, such as the pilgrimages to get to the grounds, the sense of belonging, and the experience of visiting hostile or foreign territory. With the New South Wales government apparently deciding to no longer fund redevelopments of suburban NRL grounds to focus instead on major stadia, it feels that the decision to move into the future - as with the Melbourne AFL experience 20 years ago - will be made for Sydney NRL fans.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

To put it briefly - South Melbourne 2 Hume City 0

Arriving back in Melbourne at just after midday after having attended an academic conference in Sydney, and having seen the family - or at least portions thereof - I was pleased to be able to be able to get to Lakeside in the evening to see my one day a week family. Too bad not many of them were there, a pretty low crowd emphasised by one South fan tapping me on the shoulder at halftime I think it was, in order to point out that he'd counted the crowd, and that it was not good.

Maybe these five o'clock starts are getting to people? I used to be of the firm opinion that it didn't really bother me which of Friday night, Saturday or any of the possible Sunday times we played it, but I'm over the 5:00pm kickoff time. The weather is crappier, the crowd less enthusiastic, and by the time I get home it gets late for dinner.

While we shouldn't kid ourselves with hyperbolic statements, such as we got better crowds in previous recent seasons - we didn't, really - or that the lack of a social club is keeping people away - it's a disincentive, but it's not like people were super keen on the old social club, especially after a loss, and before the games, forget about it.

The game itself saw another week in which we stuttered around at the beginning, before eventually working our way into a position where we looked good going forward, and not reliant on minimal chances to score. We had nine corners alone in the first half which is a great sign, even if we regressed to short corners. Jamie Reed had our best chance, when a cross fell to him at the back post, but he seemed surprised by that fact and his first touch was atrocious, going straight to the goalkeeper.

At the other end of the field it wasn't quite as pretty. Hume hit the woodwork twice and our defence, under instruction to hold on to the ball, didn't always look comfortable doing it. In my opinion, Michael Eagar in particular looks wonky when doing this, though James Musa and Shaun Timmins aren't that far behind. Tim Mala on the other is playing with real confidence even managing to get some overlapping runs going.

In the first half we were helped by Hume's players getting an injury or two, especially probably their best player after the already out for the season Nick Hegarty, that being Shane Rexhepi. Hume's keeper Oldfield also did his best to help is out, by cleaning up his teammates on several occasions when he came out for the ball.

For awhile there it didn't look like we'd score, but one must never forget the poor finisher's friend, the own goal. We got one of those against the Bergers not too far back to settle the nerves, and it happened again here, a cross bundled into his own net by Erdogan this time.

Epifano's goal to seal it was much better as several people have already noted. Coming from the best move of the game, with some nice one-two work and a beautiful finish into the top corner, it just about iced the game, and kept the chasing pack at arms length for another week.

So, still six points ahead of Oakleigh who are habitually crushing teams now, making goal difference a real problem for us. Not that anyone should dare to get ahead of themselves, but there's nine games to go, so the finish line is starting to get within sight. Just got this niggling feeling that we'll get overrun, but with a bit of luck and skill, hopefully we can get over the line.

Next game
The obviously much improved Melbourne Knights, in the last of our extended stretch of home games. After that, Northcote, Bentleigh and Pascoe Vale away. Not getting any easier.

What happened to the clock continuing on into injury after the ninety minutes? It just stopped at 90:00 like it usually does. Please bring the injury time count back.

Shoot Farken world cup reports
Pleased to say that I made it to the end in one piece.
Thanks to everyone who has shared those pieces, and especially to Engel Schmidl and Athas Zafiris at Shoot Farken for publishing them.

Final thought
It's good to be back in a town with an ugly bridge and a port full of red cranes.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Social Club Artefact Wednesday - Hellas Headband

Back in 2008 when this blog was only about six months old, and during a period of time when he was riddled with injuries, South winger Billy Natsioulas had offered to write about his footballing career up until that point. That post eventually became this post, still one of my favourite posts on here, and judging by the stats and comments, one of our readership's favourite posts, too.

The one regret I have about that piece is that 'Nats' claimed to have a photo of himself wearing a classic Hellas headband, but he was never able to find it and supply it to me for use with the article. More's the pity on that front. I assume the headband in this photo, which I found as part of cleaning out the social club, is what Nats would have had on his head in said photo. Surely there couldn't be more than one version of this stunning fashion item, but I'm sure there are photos in old school photo albums of our supporters, with some young punk or punkette sporting one of these at Middle Park.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Thumbs up! South Melbourne 1 Green Gully 0

It started off with getting there later than i usually would, because the under 20s game had been moved to Middle Park to preserve the Lakeside surface - take not, that next week's undfer 20s game has alos been moved down to pit lane - and thus the lead up to senior match was spent talking crap with various people, which when I come to think of it, was not much different to every other week.

Oh, and we had a good look at who the ref was going to be for the senior match.

He actually ended up having very little impact on a game that was littered with lots of little fouls but no serious ones until the right at the end, but more on that later. Of more immediate concern was the fact that as good as we were looking going forward early on, the back end was messy. Those fear were only partly allayed by Matthew Theodore's early goal and the decisive moment of the game, heading home from close range with the Gully goalkeeper Kieran Gonzalez stranded thanks to Jamie Reed's superb cross from the right. Even more impressive was Reed's burning of Osagie Ederaro to create the space to get the cross in the first place. If reed's not going to score goals, then at least play him into space so he can make fools of the opposition, because no one on our side comes even close to having the dribbling skills that he does.

Speaking of dribbling, remember when that was a skill that lots of players had? Check out the SBS classic world cup matches - I'm talking up to the mid 1980s here - to see what a fundamental and entertaining part of the game we've lost, that marvelous moment where you just sat there mouth agape at the way feet, ball and mind combined to outwit and humiliate an opponent.

But I digress. Within two minutes of our goal, Gully surely should have equalised - the space and time were both there - but could only watch on in horror as Tim Mala cleared it off the line. Now Tim Mala, there's a player I did think highly of last year, but his improvement has been a key reason for our good run so far this season. Yes, he still mistakes, but he's making fewer of them, and for a lot of players that's as good a place to start as any.

The rest of the half saw us on the back foot,with Gully having the better of both territory and possession, and us requiring the intervention of Saldaris far more often than I would have liked. Nick Epifano, who's been in the wars injury wise this season, copped another blow, and had to be subbed out during the first half. With Leigh Minopoulos unavailable - overseas attending a family wedding according to smfcboard - Tyson Holmes entered the field, necessitating a reshuffle in midfield. More important than all that though was the fact that we held onto the lead going inot the break. which allowed us to regroup.

The evidence of that was there to see in the first part of the second half, as we turned on the style. Unfortunately, neither Reed nor Milos Lujic were able make the most of chances that are bread and butter for any striker. That inability to close out the game of course meant that Gully were going to be a threat once our period of dominance faded, and so it came to pass. Only their own wasteful finishing, and desperate defending with bodies being flung in the way of incoming shots kept them out.

The game went into a 95th minute - and even though I'm not a fan of the re-tooled scoreboard's colour scheme, I love that the clock now goes past 90:00, so thanks to Cuddles for taking my suggestion on board - because James Musa was apparently stomped on while on the ground, to which to our mate Bruno only dished out a yellow card. Nevertheless, we held on for all three points, and got Frozen Tears' official club song blared over the speakers, another nice feature of the 2014 match day experience, even though the 'summer's here' line is now representative of an increasingly distant past.

Some other thoughts. Shaun Timmins may be a decent player, but I'm not yet convinced that he's any better than Brad Norton, the bloke he's dislodged from the starting eleven. He hasn't yet shown the attacking ability that Norton has over the journey, and if Timmins has been recruited because he's more solid defensively than Norton - not an unreasonable assumption - than he's yet to impress me on that front either. Though it's only been two games, Timmins seems to play very narrowly, which is great if he times his interceptions, but horrible if his aim is not true. Indeed, his positioning reminded me somewhat of Ramazan Tavsancioglu, who also had a habit of finding himself far too central when he was with us.

Also of a concern is the centreback situation, with Dimi Tsiaras now off on his honeymoon I assume, and Andrew Mullet - was he even on the bench yesterday? - getting precious little game time, and likely to get even less now that Timmins and Norton will be, in theory at least, fighting over the left back position. More pleasing at the back end of things was the improvement in Jason Saldaris' kicking. Though there were still the occassional iffy moments - as much as to do with the problematic footing situation at Lakeside at the moment - the apparent instruction, and I really I'm only guessing this is what has happened, to get Saldaris more touches of the ball and to make the first priority to get it as far up field as possible seemed to lead to him getting real purchase on clearances.

After all that, our lead at the top remained at six points, after Oakleigh brushed aside Port Melbourne on Friday night. They've got Gully away this week, so there's conceivably a chance of Oakleigh dropping points out there, though I doubt that their forwards will be as profligate as ours have been recently.

Next week
Hume City at home. Will I even make it to the game? Who knows, but never fear dear reader, I do have a backup reporter in the event that my return from Sydney becomes complicated. Will the Hume players on holiday in Brazil - apparently one of the Franjics and Kliment Taseski - make it back?

Various shenanigans
Hilarity ensued when for some reason the scoreboard somehow ended up changing to display Gully as being up 2-0. Cue the '2-0, to the Gully' chant from Clarendon Corner. When the scoreboard the chamnged to show the Adidas logo, the chant became 'Adidas, Adidas, Adidas'.

As usual with a Gully game, there was fun to be had at the expense of the Vargas brothers, with Andy copping the brunt of this time. To some hostile chanting directed at him, he at least had the good sense to stick his thumb at the crowd rather than the middle finger, to which he received the 'you can stick for fucking thumb up your arse' chant. At the end of the match, a few people headed down towards the players' race, both thumbs stuck up in there as the Gully players walked past them down the race.

Asian Cup is coming! (because you all care so very much)
Sure, we're all still in world cup mode, but if H.G. Nelson hasn't compelled you to book your seats for the Asian Cup, I'm here with my own exhilarating story.

I bought my tickets to this tournament during the week after conferring with two other blokes to splurge for Category 1 Melbourne venue pack tickets. We ended up with some pretty decent seats for every game - though naturally slightly worse (though still more than acceptable) for the opening match with the Socceroos and the quarter final). For some appropriately vague but still obviously stupid reason, I'm looking forward to Palestine and Jordan in particular.

The scheduling is quite packed - all the Melbourne games are two days apart - but the value is very good whether you want to buy venue pack or single tickets, especially since there's no thing as a bad Melbourne Rectangular Stadium. However, those looking to chase the Socceroos up and down the east coast come January 2015 - like our old mate Steve from Broady - will have their work cut out for themselves with organising tickets, flights and accommodation, because the Asian Cup organising committee couldn't give a stuff about those types.

More Shoot Farken world cup stuff
Has the law of diminishing returns been achieved here? Find out for yourselves below.

Meanwhile, over on the Melbourne Heart City forum
Short lived franchise, now
frontier corporate outpost;
Still keeping it real.

Around the grounds
Sweet rays of afternoon sunshine
Headed out to Campbell Reserve to see what's become a bit of rivalry in this division and its predecessor. Sadly the contest provided by Altona East on this afternoon was meek, with Morerland running out 4-1 winners, though could have easily scored twice as many as that, hitting the post twice and having a penalty saved among a host of missed opportunities. Still, the outing did give a chance for Ian Syson to photograph the late afternoon Melburnian sunlight he's so fond of.

Final thought
As Cuddles noted to me the other day, 'no wonder no one's coming to games anymore, everyone's busy porking birds'.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Vic Uni St Albans Campus artefact Wednesday - South fan profile

When Victoria University academic and sometime blogger Ian Syson wants someone to help clean out and/or organise his office space, he calls in the professionals. And by professionals, I mean me, because I did get paid to do it a couple of times.

As part of said organising process, I get to keep duplicate books (usually novels - I still need to read Mary Barton and Dr No) as well whatever other crap Syson decides he no longer needs. Thus I ended up in the situation whereby I came into possession of some decade old soccer magazines. Most of these were copies of Soccer International (about 4-5 copies, if you want them, contact me) and one copy of Action Soccer.

The photo below is from Action Soccer, a magazine I know next to nothing about. This version of it had the banner on the front claiming to be 'your essential guide to thr 1999-2000 NSL season', and I guess it performs that function adequately. There's all sorts of curious timepieces in there of course. Club profiles, rising star pieces, a Socceroos pullout poster, and a photo of Vaughan Coveny showing off his nipples.

But the bit I decided to pull out of there this time - I may revisit this magazine in future when struggling for artefacts to upload - was a fan profile. It was part of a set of four, and apart from ourselves, it included Carlton, Northern Spirit and Perth Glory profiles (which if people who support(ed) those teams want, I can provide via email).

It's a pretty spot on profile - fickle, but not that bad, limited chants as they were at the time with more focus on abuse/opinion, and of course good travelling support. I don't know about the rest of them, but the bloke in blue smack bang in the middle of the inset photo still comes to games. Hell of a guy. Click on the photo to enlarge it - maybe you're in there somewhere.