Sunday, 22 May 2016

South win 2016 Apertura title - Green Gully 0 South Melbourne 1

After walking around the HV McKay Gardens during the morning and having Afghan food for lunch, it was time to drive Chris Egan and Gains up to Green Gully Reserve in order to return to the scene of the crime as it were. And yes, while one did consider turning around and heading to the MCG because Collingwood were up by seven goals against Geelong at quarter time, we did end up making the turn onto Green Gully Road and into Gully's Chinese finger trap car park.

A couple of changes as well. No Luke Adams because of international duty, so Matthew Foschini was at centre back alongside Michael Eagar. Marcus Schroen made way for Iqi Jawadi's first start in many weeks, and Steven Hatzikostas also got a start. Were we a bit mosquito fleet in midfield with Mathew Theodore playing the attacking midfield role he's best suited to? Sure, but it actually seemed to work.

The difference, if anything, is that we seemed to press up on Green Gully in a way that we have not been doing to our opponents for... well, I'll let you guys decide how long. Most NPL defenses, with the probable exception of Bentleigh, can't play their way out of the back without hoofing it out or up the field, but even by those standards Gully's defense yesterday was all over the shop. They panicked even in rudimentary defensive situations, gifting us corners, throw ins and possession in dangerous positions on a regular basis.

Yes there was a noticeable breeze heading towards the car park end goal to which we were heading in the first half, but that doesn't explain some of the poor decision making by Gully. One of these poor decisions eventually lead to our goal, with us being given a penalty after a rather clumsy attempt by a Gully defender to prevent Amadu Koroma from playing the ball in the 18 yard box. Despite having a penalty saved last week against Pascoe Vale, the People's Champ once again took responsibility for the spot kick duties, eventually scoring from a stutter-y if not quite stuttering approach, but that's just one of those things open to interpretation.
and in case you're wondering why the 'Folau' reference, no, old mate Israel hasn't decided to take up soccer - here's the correction from John Patitsas soon afterwards.
So was the People's Champ's penalty stride one continuous motion? Probably just, but you know what they say about being technically correct. What was quite daft was Green Gully keeper Dowisha running up to referee Shaun Evans to complain, as if Evans was going to change his mind because he asked him to. I admit there was a point there where after the penalty was converted and Dowisha and his teammates made their pleas for re-consideration, that time seemed to stand still, but the goal stood and Dowisha got a yellow card for his trouble.

The goal was no less than we deserved on the balance of play, and the greatest disappointment was that we couldn't add to that goal. Crosses kept missing, corners again were dire, and our free kicks lacked venom, albeit at least for once they tended to be on target. Oh, how good would it have been had Mathew Theodore's first half shot crashed in off the cross bar instead of out?

Defensively, bolstered by a hungry and tenacious midfield, we looked strong, albeit there were a couple of moments - as much due to the wicked spin of the match balls, which also caught out some Gully defenders at times - where we needed to rely on Nikola Roganovic's reflexes. Mostly that was at the end, thank goodness, where he did what he had to do.

After so many years of struggling to win at this ground, to make it four wins here in four years says a lot about how much we've improved as a team during that time, and how much perhaps Gully has if not stalled, than at least retreated from its one time ruthlessness of the Dobson years.

Instead of being butchered to death (apart from a couple of dubious late tackles) and struggling to play against the masters of grinding out a result, we had to withstand mostly silly and pointless fouling and at best only had to endure a late flurry of action which, while it could have resulted in an equaliser, did not. We were in control for eighty of the ninety minutes, and even that ten minute period at the end where Gully started throwing the kitchen sink at us doesn't diminish that fact.

That doesn't mean we played anywhere near to our potential, and we still look vulnerable from a number of ailments. First and foremost is our dependence on Milos Lujic as the lone man up front, which relies a lot on the wide players getting into the box to take some of the heat - and the markers - off Milos. At least yesterday Milos came up closer to the midfield to collect some balls, meaning that space was created behind him.

The second problem isn't far removed from the first one - what if Milos goes down with a long term injury? There is no other player in our squad with the same blend of physique and skill ready to slot into that role - it's arguable that apart from Leigh Minopoulos, a very different kind of forward, we don't even have any strikers full stop. The transfer window opens up soon, but should a striker even be signed by us, it would probably necessitate a change in the game plan, something which has not necessarily been at the top of our to do list these past few seasons.

We still have a problem with defending diagonal balls, which Gully only really seemed to take notice of late in the game, and which Koroma - who seemed to be the main defender being targeted - did well enough in defending most of the time. It was actually strange to see so little of the play on the concourse side of the ground in the second half, where there would have been more shelter to use against the wind.

Still, these are problems you'd admittedly rather have while being top of the table, and not in places other than that. Nevertheless there will come a point where people will see that period of struggle between the 2006 championship and the Chris Taylor helmed resurgence as irrelevant to what happens now. And that would be fair enough. Not that we have done poorly, but the measure of success which many fans will have used to score this side - which once would have been limited to 'oh my goodness, we no longer completely suck!' - will change.

Next game
Heidelberg away.

...and justice for all
Since Jason Newsted is still waiting for justice, than perhaps we can wait a little longer for the tribunal date for the Victory incident. But not too much longer surely.

Does anyone actually care? - social media edition
As a Twitter fiend - attempts to wean myself off the medium have been only moderately successful at best - I am interested in following the conversation that centres on the NPL Victoria on that platform. Now, being a not very popular league, there isn't much interest overall on Twitter. That's to be expected, and not something we should get alarmed at.

And despite Twitter's potential, the medium itself is retreating into re-tweets of news and information instead of original content (as is happening with other social media platforms, including Facebook). Aside from that problem, even when a popular event (such as an AFL match) starts trending, the kind of talk that takes place resembles something more akin to people yelling into the breeze than actually talking with one another.

If Twitter is to become just another shorthand news source, that's not so much of a problem (except for Twitter itself, perhaps), but the lack of engagement from ordinary NPL punters is interesting, especially when FFV has (quite rightly) put more emphasis on NPL Victoria clubs' use of social media. Now obviously quite a few won't have Twitter at all, but most people have Facebook accounts these days, yet for the most part the engagement levels seem about the same, taking into account a lot more people use Facebook than Twitter.

While Twitter is my main focus in this aimless thinking out loud piece, the lack of engagement on Facebook for many teams - where more of their support, both actual and latent, resides - is also worth noting. A few weeks ago, after we had defeated Bentleigh in that very exciting match, Bentleigh Greens had posted a video of an exasperated Johnny A blaming the length of the grass as part of the reason his team didn't win. Myself and a couple of other South fans decided to post on their Facebook page making note of last year's painted grass fiasco, comments which were deleted by the Bentleigh Facebook admin.

That we could just re-post the same critique on Twitter without them being able to do anything about it was not really the issue. More interesting was that on that and so many other Bentleigh posts, there were no comments. Yes, they're not the best supported club out there, but it's not so much different for South Melbourne Facebook posts, especially considering the vast amount of (real or bought or whatever) 'likes' we have compared to other teams.

People may read the social media updates, occasionally click on 'like', but beyond that there's not much engagement unless there's controversy. It's not much different for South games on Twitter. It's usually me, SMFCMike and... that's about it. And I've taken my foot off the Twitter pedal this year for South games this year so I can focus more attention on the game and the real world banter. But even in other games, there's quite a lack of Twitter discussion for most NPL Victoria games, with the exception of the news sources and the global gambling 'community'.

I suppose it's easier to become engaged on social media when you're a neutral, or if you're watching a game on television - and while you're seated, if you happen to be in a stadium. It's easier to also to feel the need to post something if you think someone else cares, and with a niche product like the NPL, that kind of motivation is often hard to find.

A fellow blogger newer to the blogging game asked me recently how many hits I was getting - a reasonable question. My response was about 400-600 hits for match reports, a lot less for artefact segments. If a game has had a measure of controversy, those posts tend to get a lot more traction. It's little surprise that the antics of the People's Champ at last year's game at Green Gully fits into the category of well visited match report posts.

Only three of my top ten posts hit-wise are from match reports, and that's fair enough - they're not my main forte skill-wise, and most South people still interested in South tend to be at the games most weeks. Editorial pieces or posts where I'm covering off-field sagas often get a lot more interest, because I'm one of the few covering them in a public forum, especially when it comes to issues directly affecting South.

But it's very difficult to gain traction - the narrow focus, the league we're in, all of these things makes getting and maintaining a large audience difficult. Not that I have an issue with that personally, but it's an example of how hard it is to get an audience for media based around a second tier competition in Australia. At least I write on a club with some supporters, and with a residual level of interest in Australian soccer circles. For lesser supported clubs with no great history or even tendency towards controversy, there's not much chance of developing an audience from such meager ingredients.

While I don't disagree that trying to use Twitter or Facebook is a good thing for clubs - few do it well enough, though they are getting better - I'm interested in knowing what the FFV hopes the clubs can achieve in the long run. An event such as South vs Knights (or similar) FFA Cup match will get some traction because of the fixture's 'event' status, but the same fixture as a league game will only get smidgen of the same attention.

For my part, even if my hit numbers stay small, the number of comments has increased a fair bit, and that indicates a steady level of engagement. Maybe there is sort of community built around this site (or even the now outdated idea of a 'forum') that needs to be looked at by FFV and various NPL clubs, and that merely spewing out a stream of news bites isn't enough to engage people, let alone keep them engaged.

Or maybe we should just be prepared to all ride the controversy relevance roller-coaster.

Around the grounds (NPL hurrah!)
I didn't manage to get to any other games this week.

Final thought
Who cares if this is recycled from last year's game?

15 comments:

  1. Seconds tier sport is a dead end business here in Aus. Professional bodies in the AFL, NRL and FFA see it as nothing more than a talent pool, and of course that doesn't need any money or fans!

    Promotion/relegation is the only was I see this changing in the long run and I believe that it should be Australian football's long term goal, but I don't think now's a time to get into a conversation that's been done to death.

    What incentive do people have to come to games? Entertainment? What, with Netflix, YouTube and countless other alternatives? Community - How the hell do you get started at a new club!? Families won't waste their time when premium products are available and I hate to say it but other than a few proud locals club don't have much more than the people who played for them, the people involved with the committee and possibly their junior base.

    South, Knights the Bergers and others (Port Melbourne in the VFL) are exceptions because of their history but outside of that the appeal is very limited.

    Social media? The same people who like statuses for South, also follow Bentleigh, Knights etc. They're just the football community.

    Manny

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  2. Chris 1-0 Taylor

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    Replies
    1. Our first 1-0 win all season.
      We have scored the most goals in the league thus far.
      You're a joke

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    2. Correction, second game. But my point is still valid. You're a joke. And our goals for proves that.
      Where are your compliments when we are smacking teams 6-0 5-2 4-0?

      Delete
    3. I would like to think now that Jawadi is back, we will get back to that early season form.

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    4. Yes, Jawadi certainly changes the way the midfield operates. You don't want to pick out a 'most important player', because people will go nuts over arguing whether Lujic, Roganovic or the People's Champ fall into that category, but Jawadi's absence has been noticed.

      Delete
  3. Some thoughts

    - We appeared more mobile with Foschini at the back instead of both Eager and Adams.
    - I think Koroma is playing incrementally better each week
    - what happens if Roganovic gets signed by an A League team?
    - I thought you were going to announce that you will closing the blog! Its interesting your thoughts on Facebook and the lack of original stuff. I came to that realisation recently as well. I have de-followed HEAPS recently.

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    Replies
    1. I doubt Roganovic will get signed by an A-League team - is he even looking for that opportunity?

      Social media thought bubble was definitely not a prelude to quitting! Just wondering what the point of the social media efforts are... I want to see some KPIs!

      Delete
  4. Great summary Paul regarding the engagement levels through social media. Is it a case of passively following the NPL, or simply people not caring about the 'lifeless NPL', as described by a SMFC Director?

    Many weeks on, and we are yet to hear anything on the Melbourne Victory incidents. How much more time does the FFV require to make its determinations? Is it a case of drag it out and hope most will forget and become apathetic towards the final punishment, if any? Perhaps I have become too cynical in my old age.

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    Replies
    1. This is the whole idea, let time pass and it blows over. We were calling for heads to roll a few weeks ago and now we're questioning ourselves. I called it, they won't do a thing and subsequently we won't do a thing either.

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    2. There has been talk from a couple of people that the tribunal sessions for this started last night.

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    3. Now MV have been eliminated from the ACL it is safe for the sanctions to land without affecting their senior team and supporters who only follow the senior team.

      Delete
  5. No mention of your former contributor and his near death medical emergency?

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    Replies
    1. Unfortunately the character in question sold the exclusive rights to that story to That's Life! magazine.

      Delete
    2. HOW CHICKEN PARMA SAVED MY LIFE - A Harrowing True Story

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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.