Sunday, 17 August 2014

Seven points ahead, still - Dandenong Thunder 0 South Melbourne 1

Apologies, but this entry is mostly obsessed with a sports forum I attended on Thursday and Friday.

Frankly, there isn't much to report on from this game. On an uneven pitch, in front of what looked like a South dominated crowd - which is kinda scary considering there weren't that many more of us than usual there - we played well in fits and starts, stood our ground in defense, rode our luck just a smidge, and ground out another win, and got three points closer to winning the title.

The thing that was most striking about the match though, was how few Thunder supporters seemed to be in attendance. The collapse in their home support following the grand final rocket flare fiasco, and the attendant punishments from FFV have really knocked the stuffing out of the Thunder. It's a pity to see. It's a long way from the heady days of that first meeting between our sides at this venue in 2009, and the very large crowd that was in attendance. It all seems like ancient history now.

We started off both halves with the (relative) momentum of a runaway freight train, before Thunder were able to work their way into the game and even fire a couple of shots on goal. During our spells of dominance - where Thunder struggled to get out of their own half - we unfortunately didn't trouble Zaim Zeneli in goals very much. He made one terrific save with his legs when it looked for all money that we were going to open the scoring.

Thank goodness for Jamie Reed then, who managed to get the goal that won the game. Zeneli got his hands on it, but couldn't keep it out, and then we had to hold on for a nerve wracking finish as Thunder tried to get a point out of this match, which would not have been totally unjustified. There were handball calls at either end which weren't called by the referee, and the odd long bit of scrambling defence

Quite what the deal was with the person at the freeway end sitting in their car with their headlights on during the second half, I'm not sure. It made it very hard to see what was going on at that end whenever the ball ended up in the headlight glare, and it took what seemed like forever to actually get that situation sorted out. Security seemed more interested in Clarendon Corner's swearing than actually dealing with a patron who was being a genuine nuisance.

The support behind the goals in the second half was good, even making Zeneli laugh at one moment when someone said something to the effect, we never hated you, it's Gus Tsolakis who fucked you over. The players came over after the match and thanked those supporters, and the vibe seemed very positive. Still I can't be the only one who's still not confident enough to call it, to actually embrace the seven point lead we have and the diminishing amount of time Oakleigh in chasing it down. Eight years of mostly mediocre results has eroded the trademark Hellas cockiness that even I used to subscribe to.

Doing the sums
So the maths as they stand are like this. We're on 59 points, and Oakleigh's on 52. The maximum number of points we can get is 68, and the maximum Oakleigh can get is 64. Therefore, if we win two more games out of our remaining three, we'll reach the magic number of 65, reaching the point where Oakleigh can't catch us.

However, if we beat Oakleigh in our round 25 game, the maximum number of points they'll be able to get is 61, and three points from that game would take us to 62 points. Of course, I'd rather we somehow sorted it all out before that.

Next game
Northcote at home.

There's no such thing as a free lunch, but if someone else pays for it, it's close enough
I managed to score a free ticket* to Victoria University's 'Sport in Victoria - Who's really winning?' forum, which is a good thing because the cost of a ticket to the entire thing would have set me back over $300. Movers and shakers from a range of sporting interests rocked up to discuss issues such is 'Melbourne the world's sporting capital?', 'Is it possible to win fair?', and 'Is hosting major sporting events worth the effort?'. The forum ran over Thursday night and Friday, and was run out of the MCC, which was a great thing to keep in mind when people tried to hint towards the egalitarian and communak nature of Australian sport and avoiding trickle down economic style solutions to our sporting problems.
Thursday night was a dinner thing, so lots of suits except for the odd western suburbs bum like me who rocked up in jeans and a hoodie. Entree was some fancy poached chicken, main was some sort of meat that was, by my standards, still mooing, and dessert was some sort of attempt at a custard tart, and I had two of those because frankly I was still hungry after the other two courses. Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon, Kate Roffey, CEO of Committee for Melbourne, Mike Clayton, Principal, Ogilvy, Clayton, Cocking and Mead (something to do with golf) and  John Jacoby, Race Director of Rapid Ascent (some endurance thing) were the panel for the dinner, discussing "Is Melbourne the sporting capital of the world? As the world’s most liveable city, does Melbourne promote recreation and active living enough? Is promoting professional sport and community health in conflict or complementary?"

Peter Gordon aside, who made tremendous sense as well as being affable and charming, the rest kinda put me to sleep as we somehow sauntered into discussion about whether Melbourne should bid to host another Olympic Games, and a debate from the floor with Australian Grand Prix chief Andrew Westacott about whether Formula 1 (and motorsport in general) was a sport or not. My thoughts turned more to this however.
I'm also sick of this idiotic obsession of being the world's most livable city, when those metrics seem inherently to apply to the experiences of the people who live within the confines of the inner city. And as for active participation, let's not forget this gem of an observation by yours truly:
Why were the panelists (across both days) so obsessed into getting people into sports or activities that could be leveraged commercially? While a rhetorical question, the opening session on Friday, "Major Events and The Economic Impact of Sport: Is this a key driver for the economy?" went some way to answering it. It was chaired by Radek Sali, Swisse CEO, who also put forward what sounded like a ten minute sales pitch on his company, frequently using the irritating and almost meaningless buzzword 'wellness' (and by frequently I mean enough times that I noticed and became irritated by it, so at at least twice). On the panel were Andrew Westacott, CEO of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, John O’Sullivan, managing director of Tourism Australia, Brian Morris, CEO of the Melbourne and Olympic Parks Trust and Professor John Madden of the Centre of Policy Studies, Victoria University.

Apart from Madden, I generally felt that the other three panelists tried to justify the existence of a major events oriented sporting direction. Madden went the other way, pointing out that realistically, hosting major sporting events (mostly referring to one off things like the Olympics) doesn't really boost economies - what it mostly does it redirect funding and investment into those areas necessary for hosting the relevant event, at the expense of other services and areas of the economy. Madden argued that theoretically there were ways exacting a profit from such events, cost cutting, having already existing infrastructure, something Melbourne would have an advantage in; but he also hedged his bets, by adding that people were willing to pay a certain amount for intangible benefits, such as the prestige of hosting the event, increased national pride etc. Quite why an economist was talking about the intangibles, without even providing a method for accurately measuring them (and who knows how you would even start with something like that), I don't know. But it did remind of the words of a panelist at a public transport forum I went to last year, a PhD student who argued that governments (in part due to the need to conform to the whims of the electoral cycle) the world over seemed to become entranced with building expensive, flashy, big ticket items at the expense of smaller, incremental and more cost effective improvements, a phenomenon noticed by at least on other person at this conference:
I suppose though, that if the electorate keeps falling in love with these leviathan projects, and get taken in by the associated hype, then what can those who object do?
After morning tea, the next session was "Can You Win Fair? - Sport, Drugs, Ethics and Science", with Richard Ings, former Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, ASADA, David Grace QC, president of Athletics Australia, associate professor Dennis Hemphill, College of Sport and Exercise Science, Victoria University, and Caroline Wilson from The Age. Since prettuy much everyone in the room agreed that you can win fair, and that it's ideal to win fair, the discussion turned to what we could do to stop cheating, and some people pointed out that too much money was the cause. Thankfully somebody pointed out the bleeding obvious - that people in sport cheat all the time, at all levels, at all ages. Success is the key motivator; money is sometimes a reward for that success, but not always.

I was disappointed that the discussion never really went in hard as to what is and isn't classed as fair, and more importantly just who gets to decide. The closest it seemed to come was the idea that fairness was a construct, but there was little in the way of why we cared so much for sporting fairness, when fairness in the rest of society is getting such short shrift (my opinion, thought author and academic Michael Hyde wondered out loud to me, why wasn't anyone talking about class?), and why did we demand higher standards of fairness in sport than in other areas of public life? Why are sporting leagues allowed to, even encouraged to be run as cartels seeking evenness in competition, while the rhetoric about what kind of society we want as a whole goes the other way?

Because this session featured Caroline Wilson, it naturally threatened to turn into an Essendon saga special; unfortunately the fun police intervened, and thus the most interesting thing to happen at the conference got nipped in the bud - though you can read Samantha Lane's version of events on that and the wider panel discussion here.

The lunch session (chicken and potato, walnut and date poudding with salted caramel - whatever happened to unsalted caramel?) also had a panel discussion, "The Way Forward for Victoria – Cause and Effect: Elite Sport or Community Participation?" with Colin Carter, president of the Geelong Football Club, Professor Rob Moodie, Professor of Public Health from The University of Melbourne, John Bertrand, president of Swimming Australia, Kate Palmer, CEO of Netball Australia, and chair of Victorian Institute of Sport. and John Wylie chair of Australian Sports Commission.

Though the discussion, when it turned to the issue of getting kids to be more active, the fact that there seemed to be obsession with getting Phys Ed and sport back into schools was worrying to me - the fact that the American example of playing school in sports as opposed to at clubs also annoyed me. I was worried because the former is a bureaucratic response to a deeper problem - why aren't kids being active in their own spare time, of their own volition? You know, doing the things kids used to do because they wanted to do them - run, cycle, skip, hop, jump, kick a footy with their mates. Why do all these solutions focus on supervised and structured forms of increasing activity? Annoyed, because in the latter, the ritual humiliation of the weak and puny along with the concurrent idolisation of the teenage sports star in America seems just as idiotic. What happened to be being active as a kid because it was fun? 'Where are the parents?' your correspondent shrilly cried.

Seeing as the next session was going to be about the Olympics again, this time about our diminishing medal returns, I finally cracked and left this parting shot (there was another Simpsons quoting one which you can dig out yourselves)
Checking the forum's Twitter feed later on, Nicole Livingston seemed to make some good points about the Victorian situation in particular, especially how the AFL's media dominance takes away any and all attention away from other sports (and not just women's sports). But by that time I was at Newport station and completely jaded by the general thrust of the discussions which rather than seeking to improve the sporting experience of Melburnians for the sake of it, was rather always on the lookout for a way to leverage it for a commercial gain of some sort - whether that was a corporate sponsor promoting their products, an event manager trying to explain why their event was really important for Melbourne (and worth the cost), or different sports trying to claim recreational participants as part of their own official fiefdom.

*the ticket was paid for by Victoria University, but the version of events as discussed above has nothing to do with them.

Commit to community TV
I've been a big fan of Channel 31 for years (even donated money to the crowd funding effort for the third season of the quiz show 31 Questions), but unfortunately the future of community TV is apparently up in the air because the federal government has not yet renewed Channel 31s broadcasting licence, which is due to expire at the end of the year. Therefore, if you can spare a moment, I recommend heading to Commit to Community TV to add your name to the petition. For those that are cynical about such internet campaigns, a similar grassroots effort helped reverse funding cuts to community radio a year or two ago.

Hopefully the club adds its support to this campaign as well, because being on Channel 31 has been something which has kept us in the broadcasting limelight, however marginal that might be compared to the past. It's also worth remembering that our present show is not the first time we've produced a show for Channel 31, with older heads no doubt remembering the old TVH produced South Melbourne Soccer Show, which was launched all the way back in in 2002.

By the way, there must be a way to get a hold of the tapes from those people, because chances are that it contains rare footage of not just the club, but of an era of Australian domestic top-flight football which got a serious lack of broadcast coverage. Make it happen SMFC media team.

Final thought
Who's up for a night out at Kingston Heath for the Bentleigh vs Oakleigh game on Friday?


  1. Did Maynard get the nod at Dande? Back-to-back clean sheets??

  2. Eagar, Maynard and Holmes selected in corner flag NPL Team of the Week.


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