Monday, 29 August 2016

Currently joyful, pending future doom - South Melbourne 3 Hume City 0

The first surprise yesterday was having an experienced referee in the middle of the ground in Perry Mur. He's not everyone's favourite ref - I think there are times when he could be more forthcoming with the cards - but as far as keeping a game under control, there ain't much better than him around. One has to marvel for example at how a spiteful period towards the end of the first half didn't spiral out of control. The second surprise was how good we were. Now people will say and have said that Hume were going to be tired from playing three games in one week, including a midweek FFA Cup match against Melbourne Victory.

[Should we count their home loss against Bulleen where they probably rested a whole bunch of players in the lead up to that FFA Cup game? Had they beaten us yesterday would they be instead be praised for their fitness and resilience? Surely Green Gully has had a more tiring schedule, what with having to play an extra match in the form of the Dockerty Cup final as well as having a pending FFA Cup match of their own. Does the fact that our last two wins came against teams who have played midweek fixtures in the lead up to their games against us mean our relative ease of victory in those matches is distorted?]

To be honest, I didn't see it like that, and I didn't notice much tiredness on their part. I didn't even think that Hume played badly, only that we played better. That in itself is an odd remark to make in a season which has been characterised by most South fans (including yours truly) being so quick to assess the opposition as having being unlucky whether they'd won or lost against; as our team being managed atrociously, having recruited badly and only in contention for top spot for as long as it was during the season because of the kind of outrageous fortune that few opposition sides could overcome. In a nutshell then, a result like this for Hume is entirely their own fault. How could they lose so badly to a team that was according to many of its supporters apparently many orders of magnitude more mediocre?

Leigh Minopoulos gets past his Hume City opponent. Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
That's for those folk to figure out I suppose, while the rest of us enjoy this brief opening of a window in which we can convince ourselves that we have a realistic shot at the title. I've said it a million times, but having the extra man up front seems to do wonders for us. What was the most predictable (albeit still relatively effective) attack in the league has all of a sudden become one that is multifaceted, variable and fun to watch. It's been an entertaining as well as successful month of soccer. Our finishing could be better, but three goals a match will win you most games - though one has to note that we won't get as many chances as we did in this game every week. Most disappointing miss of the match goes to Matt Millar, for not hitting the drone that was hovering near the goal at the Albert Road Drive end of the ground - if you're going to sky the ball ten metres over the crossbar, at least take a drone or a seagull out!

It always (usually?) helps when you score an early goal, and Marcus Schroen (that little boy whom nobody liked) has run into a bit of form. That made up for Milos Lujic failing to score when one on one with Chris Oldfield - and while I'm not against Milos taking the early shot, it seemed to be at odds with our recent practice of trying to go around the keeper.

Everyone pitched in, even the People's Champ, who worked hard and tracked back when necessary - so much so that it was being remarked upon that someone may have finally had a word with him that had made a difference, ONLY FOR THE PEOPLE'S CHAMP TO ALMOST IMMEDIATELY LOSE OUT IN A CONTEST IN MIDFIELD AND CHUCK A MASSIVE SOOK AND HAVE THE GRANDSTAND RISE AS ONE IN RESPONSE WITH FRUSTRATION AND FURY. Having said that, he managed to keep himself in check for the rest of the game even if his finishing has been in the same place it has been for most of the season, which is in the toilet. But most of us would have been pleased with the effort he put in, while acknowledging that IT IS EXACTLY THOSE MOMENTARY LAPSES WHICH COULD LEAD TO THE OPPOSITION SCORING AGAINST THE RUN OF PLAY AND GAINING THE PSYCHOLOGICAL ASCENDANCY. Nevertheless, his little header on the byline that lead to Norton's cross that lead to Milos' goal was commendable. He probably won't be able to rely on as true a bounce at the Village this week, but sometimes things just work.

At 2-0 up and cruising during the second half, the discussion in Clarendon Corner went all midlife crisis with people more interested in comparing different supermarkets in the northern suburbs. Thank goodness that didn't last, what with the discussion descending into what constituted the attainment of northern suburbs street cred (ie, how do you pronounce Reservoir and Mahoneys Road; gosh, it almost seemed that they were going to draw up a list for northern suburbs citizenship test) and most importantly HOW THAT DIDN'T MATTER ANYWAY BECAUSE

Attention to the match was restored upon witnessing Brad Norton collapsing in a heap towards the end of the game when it was just about wrapped up was the last thing we needed, even if he managed to walk all the way around the outer of the field unassisted after being subbed off - in an interview post-match Chris Taylor said that Norton had suffered a groin strain, and that while he could have continued playing, he was taken off as a precaution. One expects he'll be good to play this week - and with Manolo apparently flying out of the country last night, Kristian Konstantinidis performing well with Luke Adams in central defense, and Amadu Koroma not being able to force his way into the starting eleven, it's unlikely that we'll see any changes to the starting eleven, or even the match day selection as a whole.

Minopoulos' goal - it looked like an own goal but it's been credited to him, so who am I to take it off him - iced the game. It's just great to see everyone so happy. I know it won't last much longer, but instead of everyone wishing the season would just finish already, people are looking forward to going to see South Melbourne for at least one more week in 2016. The first half yesterday was about as a complete performance as we've put in all season.

Here comes the sciencey bit
The closest Hume got to scoring was in the following situations
  • Immediately after we scored, which is their specialty
  • From offside positions
Regarding the first matter, having watched the Altona East reserves during that era where they had a habit of conceding 1-3 goals within five minutes after scoring themselves, the answer to that seems to be to have the captain - ie, the most responsible, calm person - quickly get everyone back into the frame of mind of 'great we scored a goal, now let's regain our focus, and if necessary boot the ball out indiscrimately for the next few minutes to slow the game down'.

As for the second issue, each time they got free to shoot on goal, they were called back for offside - and even then they failed to beat Roganovic. It's the best we've played the offside trap all season, and considering that we're going to have the king of being offside playing against us next week, it will do us well to maintain that level of proficiency in this area.

But you can't always rely on the officials agreeing with your interpretation of offside. There was some discussion yesterday about the closeness of some offside calls, to which I blurted out something about the parallax effect without really knowing if it had any relevance to offside whatsoever. Luckily we had a qualified scientist nearby, and even if he was involved in chemistry and not physics or engineering (and I wasn't going to ask the economist, because economics is not a science) to suggest that the parallax could indeed have some bearing on the implantation of the offside rule.

This article here (with diagrams) I think provides a reasonably coherent explanation of the parallax effect on offside calls, but if like me you don't come out of it understanding how it all works, let's just assume as we have always done the linesman/woman/being/person/sentient entity gets all the decisions which go against us wrong, except when it's so obvious that he or she is right and instead we heap abuse on the incompetent player keeping everyone onside.

Next game
Heidelberg away, Saturday night. Make sure your vaccinations are up to date.

Women's team news
Congratulations to the senior women's team for clinching the State League 1 North-West title. They secured this with a 5-0 win over Eltham Redbacks. I had intended to see most of this game, but got caught up at the pub - at least I managed to catch the most of the second half.

Those of us who didn't go for a smoke at halftime warmly congratulated the team as they were presented to the crowd at halftime of the men's game. For those wondering where the trophy was, I presume because it is a state league championship, that they'll only receive a pennant for their troubles, as seems to be de rigeur for state league teams.

Just as an aside, there was some talk of SMWFC adding another star to their club crest because of this title. Surely that would only apply in the event that they won a top tier state title, not a second tier title? This is just one of the reasons why I hate stars on logos, but we're stuck with them I suppose.

There has been talk around the traps about the WNPL expanding to nine or ten teams, something which the current eight licensees are against because they do not believe the talent is there, and that such an expansion would dilute the quality of the league. There is even the view that the only reason that expansion is even being looked at is because of South Melbourne.

Now our ambition to return to local top flight women's football is no secret, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out. The current licensees may be right about the shallowness of the talent pool (especially now that everyone's leaving to play footy), but one feels that our inferred clout - as well as the facilities that we could devote to women's soccer - may get us over the line.

Nevertheless, while I wish I'd managed to get to a few more games this season, it's a huge congratulations from South of the Border to all the players and coaching staff for a successful season.

Around the grounds
The second last time
In 1981, after 34 years of wandering around a whole bunch of grounds in Melbourne, George Cross arrived in Sunshine - namely Chaplin Reserve, previously known as the Railway Reserve, Gardens Reserve (possibly also Sunshine Park) and perhaps more colloquially as McKay's ground, after HV McKay of Sunshine Harvester and minimum wage fame, effectively the town's founder and long time patrician. There they shared the ground with Sunshine City, an Anglo-Australian club. At the end of the 1982 season, Sunshine City and George Cross amalgamated, with City's yellow and black being incorporated into Sunshine George Cross' away strip.

In 2009, Sunshine George Cross played its final ever match at Chaplin Reserve, after selling the land to developers (though I'm not sure how it came to be that the land was owned by George Cross). Seven years later they did so again, although this time it seems to be for good, as the sale of the land gets finalised once and for all, probably turning one of Sunshine's earliest public spaces into apartments whose occupants will have their sleep interrupted by Sunbury, Ballarat, Geelong, and Bendigo trains. The ground's location, at the junction of two railway lines was no accident. The town itself was situated there for that purpose - and like the nearby HV McKay Gardens and the church next door, the reserve was situated for the optimum convenience of the local community.

(other factory sites in Sunshine also had their own sporting grounds, such as Nettlefolds which had a ground which backed onto the back of the factory, roughly on the present site of Harvey Norman)

Unlike some people, I liked Chaplin Reserve. Granted, I never got to see it at its best, which was probably during the 1970s when state league soccer still mattered and before the then still nomadic George Cross had moved there, or in the 1980s where thousands of mad Maltese would create a hostile atmosphere (see Paul Wade's account of one particular match there in his autobiography), but it had a rough working class charm that is a reminder that the de-suburbanisation of top flight sport in Melbourne wasn't just an VFL/AFL matter - it had a significant impact on soccer as well, socially and economically.

Michael Weinstein, Theo Marmaras and Tommy Burns watch a match a
match at Chaplin Reserve, during a Channel 9 broadcast in 1975.
Photo courtesy of Mrs Weinstein.
To that end, visiting the ground one was struck by the fact that national league soccer was played here - that games would have been broadcast from Sunshine to homes across the nation, or at least those watching SBS. Speaking to former George Cross player and coach Chris Taylor yesterday about this ground, he told me the story of how when he first arrived at Chaplin Reserve, he assumed it was the training ground; only to be told that, no, that was what they would train and play on.

No, I only got to see it during its decline. On my return to watching South and local soccer in general in 2006, I visited the ground for the first time and saw a match where we got done by a Trent Waterson header, and then got done by signing Waterson not once but twice. That day some nutbag George Cross fans in my vicinity called me 'Brooksy's love child', though I never did find out who the hell Brooksy was. I actually met up with those guys again in the Lakeside social club after the game with that goal by Fernando, where they were clearly not in as a good a mood.

The trip there in 2007 was my favourite South experience at the ground, but we've already spoken about that before. Earlier that same year, the greatest South Melbourne Hellas libero that never was pulled out two 360s in a pre-season game there. We also played a pre-season match against Knights there on a rock hard ground in 2008. Usually games for us there meant ugly, low scoring affairs, which we seldom won. Georgies getting relegated meant that we didn't get many chances to improve upon what was a pretty lousy record there, with our biggest win against them during our post-NSL era - a 4-0 mauling in the last round of 2010 - being played at Somers Street.

The entry to the dilapidated bocci/bocce club, which was being used by
some kids for a kickaround. Photo: Paul Mavroudis
The last game we played there was in 2014 - when the early rounds of what was FFA Cup qualification was still called the Dockerty Cup, and Robert Santilli gave away as daft a penalty as you'll ever see, gifting us a win we probably didn't deserve. The crowd for that game was perhaps just a tenth of what it was on my first visit there in 2006; Ozfootball says 1,000 for the 2006 league match - I reckon there would have been barely 100 for the 2014 cup match.

The best game that I ever saw there - and what with the ground being so compact, the surface usually rubbish, and Georgies teams more keen on playing rugby than soccer, that's not saying much - was the 2011 Langwarrin vs Whittlesea Ranges state 1/2 playoff game, a match with lots of goals and a bit of controversy. Despite its excellent positioning regarding public transport, I didn't get to nearly enough matches there, even after I moved to Sunshine last year, just a short bus trip and walk to the ground. Even when I lived in Altona North, one of the buses that went past my house would get me to within a stone's throw of the ground, and yet I never found myself there as often as I would more out of the way places.

To be fair, the shoddy football that George Cross played, the fact that the Geelong portion of the regional rail link works had seen the outer terracing removed - previously the best place to watch a match there from, aside perhaps from the bridge over the Bendigo line - and the dwindling crowds all contributed to diminishing the appeal of going there, when on any given Saturday there were so many more appealing soccer options across Melbourne.

Arriving at the ground on Saturday, there wasn't a huge crowd in attendance, perhaps 300-400 or so, mostly inside the social club pavilion under the adjoining shed, and clearly there to catch up with old friends rather than watch the game. Kevin Muscat, Andrew Marth and Paul Trimboli were just some of the old faces who'd turned up for the final hurrah. As for me, the most interesting thing I noticed during this time was the playing of a Sunshine George Cross Maltese language theme song over the PA system, which I would love to get a copy of.

With the outer terracing long gone, this
Werribee City supporter improvises
 a better view next to the bench.
Photo: Paul Mavroudis
The match itself provided Sunshine George Cross with a chance to redeem the failure to win their previous 'final' match at this ground against Preston, a game they lost 1-0 to a team that had up until that point won just one game all season and were due to be relegated. But within the opening five minutes Werribee put paid to any notion of romance or sentiment. With the hosts having failed to adequately clear a corner, City managed to keep bundling the ball forward until it was put away near the goal line.

Werribee (incidentally wearing black and yellow, the colours of Sunshine City, instead of their traditional blue and yellow), kept dominating thereafter up until the half hour mark, and should have added another couple of goals to their tally. Though they were going against the wind, it seemed to be more the fact the occasion had got to the George Cross players. They managed to lift late in the half and should have equalised - one effort hit the post and somehow the rebound stayed out of reach of every George Cross player in the box, and soon after another chance at the back was squandered. One of the George Cross players on the bench had a go at the teammate who missed the chance, only to be told off by his coach for doing so. Within five minutes the same coach was not shy about telling one of his players 'and that's why you're not playing at a higher level', or words to that effect.
The scoreboard, relocated from the south-west corner of the
ground to the south-east corner, was not in operation.
Photo: Paul Mavroudis

In the second half with the assistance of the breeze and the confidence gained from their first half rally, the home side controlled the game, with Werribee unable to get out of its own half except for the occasional attempt at booting it long down the field; but George Cross could not get into the box, and for the second time in a final game at Chaplin Reserve, they lost 1-0. The theme song was blasted over the PA after the game regardless of the result, and was still clearly audible at the bus stop on Durham Road a few hundred metres away.

A case containing (one assumes) numbers for the scoreboard, which
was not in operation on Saturday. Photo: Paul Mavroudis
So that's it for senior soccer at Chaplin Reserve. While it was not exclusively a soccer ground for all of its existence - a number of sports were played there, and a look at the 1945 aerial map suggests that footy and cricket were just two of the sports which used the park at some point - later on it was in its own way one of Melbourne's most iconic soccer grounds - if there can be such a thing for a state in which the game's premier or at least longest serving venues have often existed in the periphery of both the public imagination and the fringe of public amenity.

After speculation that they would end up in Caroline Springs, it appears that George Cross will move to Plumpton/Taylors Hill West. Whether that will mean a name change, I don't know.

Update 3/9/2017
They still played a whole season at Chaplin Reserve after this.

Final thought
Did you hear that sound yesterday? No? Exactly. Glorious, wasn't it? For the record, I had nothing to do with it, and you can't prove that I did.


  1. Unknown man in the pic with Weinstein and Marmaras is Tommy Burns.

  2. I like Schroen. Even when he didn't play so well. Now that we have 2 forwards he's playing well.m.. go figure. We play the right formation and the right players in position and we can beat anyone. Just a shame we didn't have 2 forwards for the whole season.

    Next year schroen will have a breakout year. He's an asset

    Hellas FC

  3. Nice write up on Chaplin Reserve. As with all the ethnic club venues, there is an affiliation with that immigrant generation that has that nostalgia aspect to it, similar with middle park for us. I guess its kind of normal that these venues die off along with that generation itself, can't help but be saddened by it though.

  4. I find it apt that my return to watching Hellas was really cemented when I decided to go see us play George Cross at that 2014 Cup game. Sometimes I wonder, seeing that they are going to bulldoze this ground, if I am walking towards the tsunami, whereas as everyone else appears to be running away from it.

    My first (and only?) memory prior to that was a late 1980's match where a crowd of 2,000 odd made the noise of 40,000 as we beat them 5 2 (results attached). My most distinct memory was a short dark George Cross fan being even more animated than some of our Greek brethren.

    1. If this is the game I think it is, we were losing and Paul wade played a blinder and we won quite comfortably. Very passionate game. I would have Ben under 10 years old but still vaguely remember it. On another note I remember seeing one of our board members fairly beaten up at Chaplin reserve. May have been savvas papasavvas. Was a long time ago so maybe my memory is wrong. Used to crap myself going there as a kid, more so than any other ground, even Preston and Knights.

  5. To think, at one stage this team had both Trimboli and Markovksi in its team! Not to mention Chris Taylor! LOL

  6. Chaplin Reserve in its heyday was our version of Millwall's 'Den'. A rough, hostile, intimidating place to go and watch soccer. I simply loved it for that aspect. The Georgies v Gully derby's back in the day were crazy, no holds barred affairs on and off the field. The terraces full on insane when a goal was scored. George Cross is a historic club and their fans are amongst the most passionate around so hopefully they get back to playing at NPL level soon.

    1. As much as having Georgies up there would be far more preferable than nothing clubs like bentleigh, port M, Avondale, those good ol days are well and truly over. No way it can be replicated with a half dead wog generation and an almost entirely australianised ozborn maltese generation. Some of the clubs can pull a throwback from time to time, but georgies would have to work its way up and strike it lucky in the FFA Cup.

      Re Georgies and Gully. Gotta love the st albans dinamo fans singing 'Georgies are the real maltese, doo dah' at gully, then the gully equilavent at chaplin res. lol

  7. "Brooksy's love child"?

    Now, this is my thoughts, and I could well be way off the mark here, it could be a reference to David Brooks from The Music Men.

    On a side note, I believe that Sean Lane who played for Preston, also formed part of the troupe.

    1. Seems to have been confirmed that Brooksy refers to the bloke from The Music Men.

    2. I see it now!

  8. Always had a soft spot for Chaplin Reserve. As a team manager, getting there early meant I could park close enough to the changerooms for unloading the car not to be a hassle. Also for having to hang around near the rooms all day, the little compound there wasn't too bad for watching the game from.


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