Saturday, 21 January 2017

Uneventful - Murray United 0 South Melbourne 2

Took the noon train up from Melbourne to Wodonga. Unless you like field after field and paddock after paddock, it's not necessarily the most scenically diverse route, though you get a handle on how flammable the Australian countryside is. Oh, and you get to go through the Albion freight corridor, which is appreciated by moderate gunzels like myself.

Spent about half the trip up re-reading Miles Vertigan's Life Kills, a novel about a plane flight with an easily distracted terrorist, two airhead hostesses, one studly pilot, one co-pilot who lacks a torso, a bunch of z-list celebs, and the increasingly menacing in flight entertainment system. Stream of consciousness, almost no punctuation, deeply cynical and occasionally sympathetic towards humanity, but more steadfast in its desire to discuss a civilisation in terminal decline.

And lest one thing that reading was all I did, I also struck up a conversation with some of my fellow passengers, about books of course. Yes, my main conversation buddy was mostly interested in popular fiction, but I managed to recommend some Australian literature he may enjoy: Kenneth Cook's Wake In Fright, Anson Cameron's The Last Pulse, and Barbara Baynton's short stories. He reminded me to take a gander at that Peter Fitzsimons Batavia book.

Arrived in Wodonga just before four in the afternoon, and with a couple of other South buddies staying at the same motel discussed the dive qualities of this motel, but I have to say at least the wifi is good, and if you have an appreciation for 1970s tiling, this place is not so bad. Wodonga seems to shut down after 5:00PM on a Friday, and driving around it can make it seem like a bit of a ghost town. I think we crossed over to the New South Wales side of the border at one point, but our stay there didn't last very long.

We eventually killed enough time doing other things so that we rocked up to Murray United's La Trobe University base of operations, a spartan but neat facility of about three or four grounds shared with local league side Wodonga Diamonds. There are some metal benches adjacent to the basic pavilion, but otherwise no elevation around the rest of the perimeter. Food was humble fare, being snags and burgers on white bread, but no complaints from me on that front apart from the Valkanis canteen like waiting time.

The surface was adjudged to be a bit spongy, but it looked green and will be better than a lot of places we end up playing at this year, especially once the season gets into winter. It was deceptively windy as well, and then the temperature dropped a bit as well. But again, nothing our squad won't have to deal with on a weekly basis when the season proper comes around.

Two games in two days means that we have to nurse the squad through a tight fixture window. This was also our first 45 minute halves match of the 2017 pre-season, but I think we handled it well. Indeed, I think we looked fitter than Murray United, even though their season starts earlier than ours. But then again, I think given the resources and the likely robust fight for spots at our disposal, this should be the case regardless

We dominated the fixture, even with a makeshift/unfamiliar forward line, with Milo Lujic, just back from a short holiday, playing only towards the end of the game. No Milos does mean at least learning to play a different way, a bit more mobile and flexible perhaps. The only letdown overall was not having put away a few more chances - though hitting the woodwork twice also conspired to deny us a bigger goal tally. Keep an eye out for Carl 'Pidge' Piergianni to be a constant aerial threat from set pieces this year - provided we can supply the necessary delivery, of course.

Gavin De Niese gave us the lead during the first half, I think some kind of curling shot or cross eluding everyone and finding its way into the back of the net. He'll be a useful pickup should we follow through and make the signing. Leigh Minopoulos sealed the result in the generally less interesting and more frustrating second half, finishing off a nice sequence of play with an outside of the foot flick finish from a tight angle.

Murray United gave it a go, but only seemed to trouble us in any meaningful way towards the end, and even then, not too much - the corner count was heavily lopsided in our favour, if that counts for anything. I don't think they'll be one of the favourites for promotion to NPL, but the overall package they provide to the NPL project is worthwhile and worth persisting with. They could do with some better lighting for night games though. The crowd was decent enough, a couple of hundred people, maybe a little more. Not too many South fans, though some may make the trip up today. This kind of thing is really more for the players though.

After the game we drove around looking for some place to eat at, found a mediocre pizza joint, and then ended up back at the motel drinking Seagram's gin and tonics for those who could tolerate tonic water while watching the closing stages of a BBL fixture, and then channel surfing through the local television offerings which for some reason didn't have any of the SBS channels working.
Today at the same venue, in an earlier time slot and in expected to be warmer conditions, we'll be playing Canberra Olympic, who everyone seems to expect to be a tougher opponent. Until that moment, we'll have to find something to do to kill time. I have some ideas.

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