And there is, also, of course the preemptive comment that these matches are ideal for ironing out the kinks and learning and growing. So there's that to fall back on, as well as the point that this weekend was as much about the players bonding as getting ready for round one. Apparently the initiation involved singing, which was as good enough reason to give it a miss as any.
With Kristian Konstantinidis on holidays, and Luke Adams' partner due to give birth, we were a bit short on centre back options over the weekend, and thus Carl Piergianni and Michael Eagar had to shoulder those duties across two matches in two days instead of getting some respite. With Brad Norton taking a break for this game, one usually reliable avenue towards goal was absent.
There were moments where many of the familiar problems of last year cropped up, the most obvious being what to do when the opposition decided to sit back. Thus we got to the point where the ball would be repeatedly played across the back line, maintaining possession until we got to halfway, and then... Eagar would be stuck for ideas on the halfway line, looking for someone to provide an option; or on other, fewer occasions, Piergianni would search for a long pass into space in the corners.
That meant that we had to rely more the speed and ingenuity of the wingers. On the right hand side Stefan Zinni struggled to get past opponents when he had the ball, but on the left Marcus Schroen seemed to continue from where he left off last year, causing lots of problems, and scoring a goal (which I had incorrectly attributed Lujic on Twitter) after some good work by Nick Epifano who dodged two very bad tackles before putting the cross into the middle.
(speaking of the People's Champ, he was right in the middle of the all in push and shove sequence that occurred during either first or second halves, but everything sorted itself out fairly quickly).
Too bad there weren't many others around to put away some of those crosses when Milos Lujic couldn't get to the ball cleanly. Matthew Millar and Andy Kecojevic could have done better with some of their opportunities.
Defensively we did give up some chances on the counter attack that were a product of how far we had pushed up the field leaving the slow centre backs stranded, but also due to Olympic eventually getting into the game. There were reports that this was their first hit-out for the pre-season, and they certainly looked unfit. So on that front it was disappointing that we didn't put some more goals away in this game before the toll of the heat and effects of the match the day before caught up with us.
Eagar gave away the penalty which led to Olympic's goal. My reaction was that it was a soft decision, in that while waiting for a free kick to be sent in to the penalty area, some jostling saw an Olympic player go down too easily. But other spectators with better eyesight were more willing to give the referee the benefit of the doubt. More power to those people.
Richmond at home on Friday evening, 7:00PM kickoff.
Unbiased South Melbourne player evaluations
While we were walking around a Wodonga shopping centre, a bloke working at a booth there saw our South gear and stopped us a for a bit of a chat. Turned out he was an ex-Southampton youth player playing in the local competition. Among his noteworthy comments were the fact that there were better players in Murray United's region, but that they could not offer up enough money to attract them away from their local clubs, who could afford to pay players more - as well as offering shorter commutes instead of fortnightly trips to Melbourne.
Our new friend reserved special praise for Leigh Minopoulos, and especially for youngster Josh Hodes, comparing him to a teammate he had back in England who is currently playing in the Championship. Nice praise for a 16 year old.
Arrivals and departures
Midfielder Gavin De Niese has been signed, and young forward Giordano Marafioti has been upgraded to the senior list. Meanwhile, it appears that Francesco Stella has been released from the club by mutual agreement, a strange ending to a strange summer signing if true. The club still has a visa slot up its sleeve, while the fate of Andy Kecojevic also remains in the balance at the of publication. Stephen Hatzikostas continues to be unsighted during this pre-season, and so one assumes that at some point the club will make an official announcement on that one way or another.
Meanwhile, at Lakeside Stadium...
Those wondering what the temporary seating at Lakeside being put in place for the upcoming athletics meet will look like, need wonder no more.
Those waiting for a definitive seat count can wait a bit longer though.Step outside and see a new stand behind the goals at Lakeside Stadium ahead of the Nitro Series and visit of @usainbolt pic.twitter.com/DuWExd5yT6— George Kouroumalis (@TheeeKou) January 23, 2017
Just on that subject...
I am also informed that social club works are continuing. Something about a floor, polished concrete.
Peter Parthimos leaves the board
While exactly how it came to pass will probably remain in conjecture in perpetuity, the baseline fact is that long serving board member Peter Parthimos has resigned from the board, and inexplicably presented in the attendant article without his trademark glasses . Parthimos was treasurer for many years, and tended to be the quietest board member around, often times not even presenting the financial reports at AGMs, leaving that up to fellow accountant, president Leo Athansakis. Peter however was probably the board member that most fans had to deal with at South games, often working at the gate and performing membership duties. Always ready with a friendly greeting, one is left wondering which of the new board members will take up the slack on that front? Anyway, South of the Border thanks Peter Parthimos for his decade's worth of service on the South Melbourne Hellas board, and looks forward to him enjoying matches as a pleb spectator once more.
There doesn't seem to be very much to do in Wodonga. Being a country town, you're also supremely dependent on having a car (or maybe a bike, if you're that way inclined) to get anywhere 'fun'. The place seems to shut down at night (though the burrito place was open until 10PM on Saturday, which was handy), and so you're compelled to leave the town for sightseeing or adventuring purposes.
Unless, of course, hanging around vacant blocks and construction sites is something you're into. That, or stay at home and watch ads for tractors. Or go fishing.
So we headed out to Bonegilla to see the former migrant camp. I took some photos, but apart from not being very good, like the remnants of the camp itself they miss an essential point of the experience that cannot be replicated - that of inhabitance. The remnant buildings and all those since taken down were all designed to be lived in and used by thousands of people at any given time.
So, while one can a sense of the place because of its bush environment, the tin sheds, and the spartan living conditions, one misses the essential human element to all this. This lack of present day habitation is made up for via installations, information boards, art set pieces, of varying degrees of quality.
For example - the rooms dedicated to the Greek and Dutch experiences respectively highlighted the inconsistencies. The Greek room was sparse, with few artefacts, instead relying mostly on the vox pops put up on the walls. The Dutch room by comparison had more stuff, adding a level of depth to the experience - it gave a sense of the people the artefacts belonged to.
The most successful of these was an art set piece, a wall with several dozen speakers all playing stories by camp residents at the same time. To understand one of these voices at the expense of the others, one had to lean in to one of the speakers and pay close attention. In terms of a representative example of the Tower of Babel situation at the camp, it was probably as close as one could get.
The information boards were good, providing detailed but not overwhelming summaries of life in Bonegilla, along with vox pops from former residents. There is no reticence either to admitting that while the government wanted the migrants for their manpower if nothing else, that Anglo-Australians were as a whole resentful of the non-English speaking migrants.
In terms of the stories that you are able to get, a number of threads pop through. One is of course the food situation. Coming from a situation of rationing and scarcity, the staff and authorities expected the migrants to be grateful for the copious amounts of food provided, especially meat. Instead most of the migrants seemed to find the food awful, the mutton and lamb being too much, and the menu limited and predictable. The Italians eventually complained enough that they got some things changed. Children seemed to have a better time of it than their parents, which I can understand. Less emphasis seemed to be made on those arriving as single people, alone.
Not very much was made of the difference in environment, insofar as for those migrating from urban areas, the bush would have been alien in and of itself; and for those migrating from rural areas, the bush would have been unfamiliar because of the different trees, birds, noises etc. You also don't get much of a sense of the camp's prior status as army barracks, and later on an internment camp. The most pressing environmental aspect was its seeming utter remoteness. How far to the next town, the next city? How far to home?
The strangest thing about the complex was for some reason there being two walls in one of the buildings with small, unambitious footy murals which looked liked they'd been painted at some point during the 1980s. It clashed completely with the rest of the environment and the point of those who had lived at the camp who had nothing to do with footy - the migrants' sporting interests tended towards sports like soccer and basketball.
There were other people visiting at the same time as us, but they all seemed to be elderly. Former residents of the camp come to reminisce? It'd be sad if the place became forgotten or under appreciated over time - though I suppose it was bound to happen eventually. Will there come a time when the descendants of Bonegilla migrants will reclaim or seek out this part of their heritage in the way their Anglo-Australian brethren have sought to do with convict and war service histories?
While travelling up to Wodonga on the train, I fell into conversation with a fellow passenger. It turned out he lived in the Bonegilla township, but most oddly to my ears he pronounced it 'Bone-gilla' as opposed to 'Bo-ne-gilla'. Something as simple as that is a neat demonstration of two very different experiences of Bonegilla, and by extension two different experiences of Australia.
Having said all of that, I'd recommend anyone driving through that area to make a detour, whether of immediate migrant descent or not. There are guided tours, but you can easily wander around the grounds at your own leisure. Not every building is open, but enough are so that you can get a sense of the place and its amenities, even though areas like the toilet and shower blocks are long gone. A couple of hours should be enough time to see most of it.
We also took a trip to the nearby Hume Dam, where we toyed with sunburn, and also saw a turtle. I also got to make this Twitter quip.
Pavlaki and Chris for chauffeuring me around and keeping me company on Friday and Saturday.