Sunday, 6 September 2015

On to the grand final - South Melbourne 3 Pascoe Vale 2

This match swung back and forth so many times that there was little time to be jubilant before feeling sick to my stomach, only to then go back to being jubilant again. Speaking to a fellow South fan the day after this match (we both found ourselves at North Port watching Collingwood's magoos), we ended up agreeing on this one point - that before the game we perhaps felt we wouldn't have been devastated to lose this game, what with the national NPL playoffs still to play for, but as the game wore on we found ourselves sucked into the occasion beyond our control. Even if it would require us winning ten successive games (we're currently on a six game winning streak), we want to and justifiably feel that we can win both trophies left on offer.

The crowd's mood reflected that emotional roller coaster, excitement mixed with nervousness mixed with despair mixed with relief. Relief because while we could be happy with having won the game, we know that it's not the ultimate prize, for which we play this week. Relief, because while doing reasonably well going forward, we could not make the most of those opportunities that we did have from open play, with our crossing in particular being at its worst for months. Relief because defensively we were often all over the shop, being torn apart on the wings in particular. And while it would be easy to take aim at Chris Irwin, who struggled at right back in place of the suspended Tim Mala (who'll be back this week), neither did Brad Norton have a particularly good game going forward or back. Relief, too, that Milos Lujic not only started the game (even if that caused its own 'is he/isn't he right?' apprehension), but proved useful as well, and managed to last the full 120 minutes despite one moment where he fell and one wondered whether he would be able to shake off his limp.

Hell, just relief that we managed to pull through despite putting our flattest performance for several weeks and still finding a way to get the job done. Credit to Pascoe Vale. They threw everything at us and often dominated periods of a game that ebbed and flowed throughout the night. They played good, attacking football (as has been the case for many years now, even going back to their state league 2 days), and were in no way reliant solely on counter attacking play. What I will say though is whatever their team's and supporters' thoughts on having played 'the better football', the reality is that every goal, whether sloppy or stirling counts exactly the same, and that the most wonderfully worked maneuver that ends with a shot being cleared off the line always counts for less than a sloppy goal bundled in by accident by a centre back who probably didn't even know what he was doing.

That we scored off three set pieces was to me a remarkable feat, even more so for the following reasons.
  1. Even disregarding the horror of the corner that lead to our first goal. I'm not sure how much Luke Adams knew about the shot he deflected into the goal.
  2. Geez, not that Pascoe Vale's Pavlidis is the most highly rated of goalkeepers in the competition, but he really didn't with that free kick for our equaliser well at all - what's more, we actually had multiple players running in for the crumb and not just the eventual scorer Andy Kecojevic, who was pivotal in extricating us from the deficit.
  3. Not only did Michael Eagar score the winning goal, and just weeks after his first goal, but like that other goal once again not actually looking at goal before having a go.
Pascoe Vale also brought a decent sized and noisy group of support along with them. Sadly not all of their fans managed to behave themselves.
The lighting of the flare was a surprise in and of itself - as it always is when it happens to come from fans of 'smaller' teams - but it was the throwing of the flare on to the running track (luckily it bounced onto the grass) that could have really been dangerous, as it probably only narrowly missed some of Pascoe Vale's own supporters who were standing along the fence. Nevertheless, we as South fans keep complaining that other clubs don't have fans, so we shouldn't get too upset when teams do start bringing them along to Lakeside.

Indeed, since we have the best stadium in the competition, we have a golden opportunity to market the ground as the away fixture to attend for opposition supporters (easier to do once we get our social club up and running...) in a similar way as what Brighton and Hove Albion have done in England. That doesn't mean forfeiting the right to make your home ground feel like a fortress, but more games like this one, with the excitement on the field and the atmosphere off it can only be good for the league as a whole. And I get that it's easy to be magnanimous after a win like that, but if Pascoe Vale are a sign of what some of the smaller teams can bring to the table when it comes to generating a bit of interest in this competition, then maybe this league isn't quite as moribund as we (I?) make it out to be.

But now on to more serious business.

2015 NPL VICTORIA GRAND FINAL DETAILS
I'll probably end up re-posting this later in the week as a standalone post when more details become finalised

Time, date and location
The grand final will be played at Lakeside Stadium on Sunday 13th September, with kickoff at 3:00PM. I am not aware if there will be a curtain raiser of any sort.

Ticketing and admission
Your South Melbourne membership will not get you into this match, and neither will your FFV season pass; media pass holders will be OK.

Though the ticket booths seemed to work reasonably well on Friday night (boy, I could not have been wrong about this, thank goodness other people paid more attention), at this stage I do not know if tickets will be available for purchase online, nor whether both sides of the ground will be opened. If the online option does become available, I will post the details on the blog.

Those hoping for a relatively large crowd may want to keep the following in mind - apart from the AFL scheduling the Richmond-North Melbourne elimination final on at the same time, NPL junior matches - including those involving South Melbourne's teams - are also at this stage still fixtured for Sunday.

Final training session
As of yet there are no details from the club about the team's final practice session before the grand final. As per the online ticketing, should the club announce something, I will post the details here.

Live stream
While of course I would love to see all South fans at the ground, for those who can't be there FFV will be providing a live video stream of the game. Visit this link for details about how that will all work.

Our opponent
Bentleigh Greens took advantage of Hume City having only a three day break, beating them 2-0 on Friday night. Despite a recent downturn in form, they are still a quality team with a chip on its shoulder from having finished second to us on goal difference (despite us not beating them in our two league meetings in 2015), as well having lost a grand final two seasons ago (incidentally against some of the players they'll be playing against on Sunday, who were then at Northcote). Whether it makes any difference to them playing against us at Lakeside as opposed to some neutral venue I don't know. Did it make any difference in the old VFL when most grand finals were played at the MCG, while most of that competition's teams still played most of their games at their suburban venues? Nevertheless, good luck ascertaining a favourite for this game, which is about as even money a game as you could possibly get this season.

OTHER STUFF
Crowd counting makes people angry
I get it. Why obsess over this detail, especially as the focus should be on the team, which has managed to reach a grand final? Well, I sympathise, but the thing is that it is of some considrable interest to the club's health as a whole and for shining a light on the kinds of people and how many are turning up to South these days after we've spent eleven years in Australian soccer oblivion. Now we could hope that the club would be bold enough to provide genuine crowd numbers, even if that would undermine the social media number angle, but that's not going to happen. The estimates for this game varied considerably. My 'realist' crowd counter provided a wide range of 800-1000, with the 800 to me seeing quite a low estimate. The FFV's report said about 2500, which is jumping off the deep end. Many fans thought about 1200, possibly up to 1500, and I think somewhere within that range is the right number.

South Melbourne Women miss out on WNPL licence
The following was posted on the South Melbourne Women's Facebook page after the eight consortia selected for the WNPL were announced.

WNPL Announcement
Earlier today the FFV announced the eight teams which will form the Womens National Premier League in Victoria from 2016. We are shocked and disappointed that South Melbourne Women's Football Club has not been selected by FFV.
The club has alerted FFV to concerns it had with the procedure adopted by FFV in assessing its WNPL application. FFV has offered to mediate the club's complaint by appointing an eminent QC to conduct the mediation within the next two weeks.
The club is considering whether to accept this proposal or to exercise its other rights, including taking legal action, as the best means to have its concerns properly addressed.
An announcement about next steps will follow in the next few days. In the meantime, the club would like to acknowledge all those who have already expressed their support and solidarity.

The successful WNPL applicants were FC Bulleen Lions, Galaxy United (Geelong), Heidelberg United, Melbourne United (Ashburton), Box Hill United, Keilor United, Bayside United, Southern United (Greater Frankston area). Southern United are a Mornington Peninsula based consortium using the resources of a number of local clubs, including Casey Comets. Bayside United apparently involves longstanding WPL club Sandringham. Ashburton will be continuing to run a community club with that name while also operating the Melbourne United licence.

Without knowing the ins and outs of the selection process, on the face of it it does seem a bit odd that South Melbourne Women, not just one of more the successful women's teams on field but also one of its more stable clubs off field - with access to Lakeside Stadium, mind you - has missed out. Now I'm not a lawyer, but I don't like their chances of finding a way into the competition via the courts. It will be interesting to see how this plays out both in the short and long term, and not just at South - already Melbourne Knights have sent a letter to FFV and Ashburton about the use of the name 'Melbourne United', which as some of you may recall was the name of the A-League bid which had some affiliation with the Knights (though the requirement to come up with three different names in the application should see that issue be resolved fairly quickly).

If one doesn't particularly care for the fate of SMWFC, the following press release indicates the relevance of SMWFC's failure to acquire an WNPL licence.
On Tuesday evening the FFV announced the eight teams which will form the Womens National Premier League in Victoria from 2016. South Melbourne Womens Football Club applied for a licence but was not selected. 
South Melbourne FC is shocked by this outcome. SMWFC has been at the forefront of Women’s football in Victoria for almost four decades and in the eyes of most is one of the leading women’s clubs in the State. SMFC did not apply for a licence in its own right, having agreed that SMWFC would do so on behalf of the South Melbourne football family with the intention the clubs would operate their NPL teams as one club. 
Prior to the announcement by FFV of the successful applicants, SMWFC and SMFC alerted the FFV of serious concerns they had about the process adopted by FFV in receiving and assessing SMWFC’s application and related matters. 
FFV has offered to mediate the complaint, proposing the appointment of a senior QC as mediator. SMWFC is considering whether to accept this proposal or pursue its other legal rights. We expect SMFWFC will make an announcement shortly. SMFC fully supports SMWFC and will continue to do so through this process.
The co-operative nature of the bid implies that we have invested some time and effort into this process, and that a level of reunification of the two groups was to take place. I wonder what the ramifications will be for that process should this bid for WNPL status ultimately fail?

Little Susie's growing up
All the way back in July 2014, I made note of the talk that some Melbourne Knights fans would start a blog of their own, called West of the Quarry. Instead, we got a Twitter account using that name, and an account on the now defunct mkfcboard.com on which to post blog like posts. The forum fell over, but out of those ashes West of the Quarry has finally made it to true blog form. As with the Sydney Olympic blog, South of the Border wishes them all the best.

Things could be worse!
This coming Sunday will also see the final of the NSW NPL take place, possibly with two teams from western Sydney taking part - so why wouldn't the Western Sydney Wanderers schedule a friendly against Wellington Phoenix for that day?

Well if we aren't going to have a social club...
Could we at least get Martin Foley to pay for an ad board at the ground? He does it for Port Melbourne in the VFL..

Final thought (dedicated to Ian Syson)
You know you're in Melbourne when you can be at a soccer final, but someone still brings along
a portable TV so they can watch the footy during half time. Photo: Paul Mavroudis.

5 comments:

  1. You should consider having a South of the Border / West of the Quarry crossover blog post. Could be pretty amusing.

    The game on Friday night was epic. Still not sure how we won that. Someone should post the full 30 minutes of ET onto youtube. Would make for some fantastic viewing.

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  2. IN for the Hercules: The Legendary Journeys inspired tagline.

    We need more Raimi/Tapert/Campbell action in the South universe.

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  3. FFV are a joke of an organisation. Can't believe they haven't organised online ticketing yet.

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  4. SotB, seeing that you are all over Twitter, etc, can you prod and prompt FFV on everyone's behalf re online tickets sales?
    Personally, I really need them released ASAP as I don't have access to a printer over the weekend.

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    Replies
    1. A few people, including committee man Tony Margaritis, have been pressing FFV on this issue, and the fact that it looks like they won't open the second stand up to the public. They've also been pressing them to have tickets pre-printed at the gate to cut down the waiting times for walk up patrons.

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While I like people commenting on the blog, it would be useful if different posters could at least leave some sort of nickname to make it easier to sort through all the different 'anonymous' posters. If your post doesn't get approved straight away, it's probably because I haven't seen it yet. Lastly, just because I approve a comment for publication does not mean that I endorse its content.