Friday, 23 June 2017

The Dockerty Cup as unloved middle child - South Melbourne 0 Bentleigh Greens 2

It needn't have ended up like this, but the way things were set in motion, what happened last night was the most likely outcome. That no one seems too bothered by the result seems to me on one level to be problematic - after all, don't we at South Melbourne go in to win everything? - but at the same time, this being the year of unstoppable good feeling at Lakeside, most people seem happy to go with the flow.

That, and the Dockerty Cup doesn't seem to be the hill that anyone wants to die on. In that sense, the Dockerty Cup is the forlorn middle child grasping for attention against mature and serious big brother League Ambition, and spoiled and petulant little brother FFA Bandwagon Cup.

The match was against Bentleigh, the team that presently more than any other causes us unending grief. The match was at Jack Edwards Reserve, a venue at which we have only won once in the last few seasons, and even that was more due to a chaotic late flurry in a rubbish game than dare I say it, skill or planning. The match was also in the middle of June instead of at the pointy end of the season, the latter of which we are far more predisposed to doing well in, as long as you ignore our 14 or 15 match unbeaten streak, and a potted history of disastrous results during several recent pointy ends

There was also once again no Milos Lujic, and also no Nick Epifano, so I think you could quite clearly see where our priorities were set - namely, getting in and out of this affair primarily without injury or suspension. And if things should just happen to pan out a particular way, end up having Lakeside host the final as the neutral venue of choice, where we may make some decent coin at the bar and kitchen. All in all, a case of win-win being not so much different from lose-win.

David Barca Moreno was put up front, by himself, and it did not work. This was mostly due to the fact that, apart from the first twenty or so minutes, we played the ball to him as if he was Milos Lujic; that is, long balls that he was asked to chase and compete for against centre backs. Now Moreno may be a gifted player or he may be a plodder, but I don't think he is that particular kind of forward; rather, I think he is one of those types that prefers the ball to feet, and for the most part we didn't do that.

But that opening twenty minutes! My word, didn't we look almost-sorta-competent-but-not-really during that time! Well, yes; yes, we did. As much or opponents were taking the ball up one end with a certain amount of confidence, so were we. In what was an open game marred by petty officiating - which we copped the brunt of of, though on reflection most of that fairly - both sides sought to outdo each other for bad crosses and midfield turnovers.

They didn't make us force a save during the first half that I can remember, while we had some OK chances, but this game soon went where so many recent contests against the Greens have gone - we forfeited any pretense at controlling the midfield, and eventually let Bentleigh have the match played on their terms. Our wide play, or the narrower confines of Jack Edwards Reserve, was limp at best. Neither Leigh Minopoulos, the returning Jesse Daley, nor Marcus Schroen had any meaningful impact on the contest.

Matthew Millar trudged up and down the field, but ineffectually. Maybe the bright sparks in the crowd are on to something when they say that he struggles at this ground, but I want more evidence first; two times only being a coincidence and not a trend as is three times. Luke Pavlou was industrious (ugh, bad word for 'tried hard but didn't do good') but also got lost a lot of times.

Further back, Brad Norton slipped and fell and looked shakier than I've noticed for a while. Matthew Foschini tended to have the measure of his direct opponent at right back, and even made some promising runs forward, but was let down by his crossing - which to be fair, was pretty much the sa,e deal as any other South player that attempted a cross last night.

The best on ground for us was Michael Eagar, who continues to play like a man reborn in 2017. Stefan Zinni was brought on probably a bit late for my liking, but once on had negligible impact on the contest. I'd also like to note that, while it's not like we weren't competing, we did look perhaps a little reticent in going full-blooded into the contest, maybe even a bit tired.

Once we fell behind in the second half, as we deserved to do, I guess the writing was more on the wall than ever. Did we improve once we conceded? Not really. Did anyone get particularly upset when Tyson Holmes doubled Bentleigh's lead thanks in no small part to Tom Rogic (video blocked to due FIFA chucking a tanty)-esque outrageous piece of good fortune? Not that I could tell. The team lifted a little bit, played with a bit more urgency, but not much more skill, and thus we bowed out of the Dockerty Cup running.

I am the bag of sand that puts out the party flame
I really would have liked to have won this game, seeing as how I fought for the return of the Dockerty Cup name and trophy, and to a lesser extent because I like it when South wins things. But everyone else around me, and even those on the forum, seemed not so fussed.

On the terrace last night then, perhaps because of the fatigue of winning too much or because of a general apathy towards this tournament, the atmosphere in Clarendon was at its most convivial, witty and oddball. Chants started off strong, before withering off into nonsense noises; more deconstructionist sound art project than chant, like the time we did staccato renditions of the 'vamos a la playa' chant back in 2008.

After hoping that the whole Matthew 'Apples' Millar thing (Millar being close enough in pronunciation to the Greek for 'apples') would die a sad and lonely death, last night we reached peak 'Apples' season when two inflatable red apples made an appearance. Goodness knows what Millar himself makes of this; provided he pays any sort of attention to this nonsense. Suffice to say, I did not join in the 'apples' chant, nor did I playfully bounce the inflatable apples around.

For some reason - maybe because he had a particular moment of bad play early on, or perhaps because as a collective we've gone through hating every other Bentleigh player these past few seasons - Nick Glavan came in for some attention this time. Either way, the erratic booing and cheering of Glavan - referred to only as 'Number 19' because I don't think most people knew he was - became an essential feature of the first half as he trod up and down the wing in front of Clarendon Corner.

Had it been up to me, some mention would have been made of Glavan's traitorous move from Knights to Bentleigh being part of the reason the former are in the dire straits they are, but that would have killed the entire whimsical notion of him being some random that people had decided to focus their attention on. That, and it was kind of sad when it did look like Glavan's Greens teammates were deliberately not passing the ball to him. For his part Glavan took the unusual attention directed toward him in his stride.

The crowds at state league soccer, as they were for much of the NSL, are of a such nature that fans and players can find themselves building a rapport even over the course of just 45 minutes. Since in our case this often ends badly, I'm just glad that for once we managed to get out of both Jack Edwards Reserve and a match against Bentleigh without any unpleasant scenes.

I still rather we'd won though.

Next game
Oakleigh at home on Sunday. Very short turnaround. Mid-season slump time?

Fixture updates
We have a rescheduled date for our postponed round 16 home against Avondale. It's been scheduled for Wednesday August 2nd.

This is the last time I'll mention this, for the next few months at least 
Some or many of you may be aware of SBS having sold off their a good deal of their world cup rights to Optus, in exchange for one game a week of EPL rights. This has upset some people, me included, but I've not made a big deal about it under I lost my cool on Twitter the other day.

This decision means that rather than showing the whole tournament, SBS will only shows 25 matches live (others on delay), while Optus gets 39 exclusive matches. For SBS, that will be one live per day (their pick), four round of 16 matches, two quarter-finals, both semi-finals, and the final. For free-to-air views, everything else will probably be on delay.

Because SBS has decided it would rather have access to Bournemouth vs Palace, what was the best free-to-air coverage of the World Cup in the world is now gone. For folks of a younger vintage, who have grown up accustomed to watching sports on subscription television, this won't seem like bad a deal. For those of us who grew up with this service as a given, the compromise seems nonsensical.

While it was the best free-to-air coverage of the tournament in the world, Australians still had to work for it in order to watch. Along with the mainstream media's ignorance of the tournament's magnitude, the ridiculous late night and early morning sessions, always in the middle of winter, made the tournament accessibility an inherent issue.

But that's where SBS stepped in, the self-appointed broadcast media guardians of soccer in Australia. They brought us the tournament in its entirety, and gave it the respect it deserved - give or take Craig Foster's inability to comport himself professionally during Socceroo matches. But no more, because SBS prefers to live off the drip feed benefits of Anglophile and Eurosnob magic beans. SBS once boasted about its soccer coverage, of which the World Cup was the the undoubted jewel in the crown.

I have had one Twitterer say that I should just pay for the Optus package. After all, I must have a 'home phone, mobile phone or broadband'. Well, yes, I have all three of those products with one company or another, and I can easily afford whatever Optus would charge. But that's not the point. The point is we are being asked to pay for what we already had, all while getting in the form of a weekly EPL game, something that very few of us actually want.

Not everyone has the proper internet connection quality to watch legal or illegal streams. Not everyone has the budget to splurge on pay television. And considering that we as Australian taxpayers (even those who contribute mostly through  paying GST because you don't make enough money to pay income taxes) have already paid for this, it is the height of robber-baron capitalism that we are asked to pay again for what we have already paid for.

And no, I will not pay for access, and no, I will not use the services of people who have. That's my pledge of pettiness to you, the reader.

I get that unlike our other erstwhile public broadcaster, SBS has particular commercial imperatives that they must satisfy. But it also has public broadcaster imperatives that it also needs to serve. Seeing as how they've reduced all their prime time viewing into English language programming, banished most of the foreign films in favour of mainstream American alternative cinema, and only play Miyazaki anime - in English dub - instead of the cooler stuff they used to dabble in, this move should come as no surprise.

[The most telling evidence of SBS selling out? Playing This is Spinal Tap instead of Get Ready to be Boyzvoiced]

That doesn't mean I'm happy about it, and it doesn't even make sense to me from a commercial aspects. Why sell out your world cup rights now, at the height of soccer's popularity in Australia? Because of Qatar and then 48 teams, this will be the last World Cup many people will likely care about so much, and now we get to see less of it because of EPL magic beans.

And no, watching games on delay is not cool. This isn't 1993, when those of us a certain vintage were happy and dumb enough to 'look away now' if we didn't want to know the score in order to pretend we were 'in the moment'.

So that's my final word on this matter from now up until the tournament starts and everyone else catches on about how SBS has dudded Australian soccer fans.

As an addendum to this post, some of the few who read my 2014 World Cup Heavy Sleeper work have wondered what will this mean for that feature's possible return next year. The truth is, I don't know. Part of what made the Heavy Sleeper work (in my opinion) was its amazing access to every game, provided I could wake up, which is obviously lessened now. Another aspect was its spontaneity, and I'm not sure I can replicate that.

But most importantly, the Heavy Sleeper was able to succeed as an immense piece of Great Art (whatever that is) because the tournament was great, and I was able to tap into joy for once - and for close to a whole month no less - instead of the unceasing negativity and moroseness that is South of the Border. Do people really want to read an angry and ceaselessly negative World Cup variant of what I do here? Do I even want to write that?

The answer to those questions is 'I don't know'. I was happy enough to let that glorious experiment remain as is, and I may still do so. But we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Final thought

1 comment:

  1. What occured to me only yesterday was that the way this game panned out mirrored all those previous losses to such an extent that the away draw we had with them a few weeks ago was obliterated from my memory!


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