Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Tasmanian trip artefact Wednesday - South’s Slow Start Spares Blue and White Blushes

This Friday marks five years since we ventured to Hobart to play South Hobart in the NPL national playoffs series. Though I linked to the article below from South Hobart blogger Richard Rants in my original piece on the game, it's nice to reproduce it here in its entirety so that it doesn't get lost to posterity... also Richard is a preyy decent writer.


Blue shins in the sunset
Connor Kass and his blueSouth’s Slow Start Spares Blue and White Blushes shins in the sunset.
South’s second National Premier Leagues adventure – this time against the mighty (sic) South Melbourne Hellas, Victorian Premier League’s champion – saw us come mighty close to a humungous upset, going down 1 – 0 after scaring the living fecal matter out of the sleek and highly fancied semi pros from across the big water. Some of these Hellas players, so I’m told, are paid thousands a game, and this mob are one of the best outside the A League. Real contenders to win the NPL. On this showing I’ve got to say: Really?
They brought a 150+ yapping, chanting, potty mouthed, whinging and beautifully passionate fans, and for 93 minutes or so, it felt like somebody cared. There was a gaggle of their fans yelling personal things about our players parentage from behind the fence the whole game, or it might’ve been the wonderfully passionate mister George Mamacas, I’m not sure. The great thing about having a yell for your team at the footy is it crosses the boundaries of the contemporary oh so polite, PC and correct social norms and allows one to exercise his inner boofhead. For many, their inner boofhead is buried so deep, was last seen so long ago, probably up the scrub where no-one could hear you scream – that they believe it simply doesn’t exist. They feel themselves far above those kinds of lowly proletarian forms of utterance. It’s therapy, it’s primal scream, it relieves the tensions, it shows you belong, and I would never think ill of a bloke for expressing himself as long as we keep it within boundaries – no violence, racism, sexism etc. The support of the fans rang about the foothills of Kunanyi and it was just wonderful. Loved the South Melbourners for coming over, for going nuts, for lifting off the roof – thanks guys!
With 18 year old Connor Kass as a makeshift right back thanks to the muscularly inconvenienced Jayden Hey failing his physical on the morning of the match, and Scott Lamont as Defensive Midfielder allowing Caleb to play further forward, South began with their imitation of a cute little fluffy bunny caught in the dozen 120,000 lumen spotlights of a massive Blue & White Albert Park Bogan Humvee. South Melbourne’s VPL legacy physicality, size and speed were too much for us early, and Connor had an almost vertical learning curve in the first 20, with his winger getting slipped in behind constantly, they also got behind us centrally far too easily, every corner we conceded almost ended in catastrophe, our defense let the ball bounce repeatedly in our box, and it was six minutes in from one such fluffbunny bit of defending that we left a bloke called Reed completely unmolested and watched as he performed “le bicycle kique” into the right side of our onion bag. He’ll go home and tell his dear old mum all about it, and maybe she’ll think he hasn’t wasted his life running about kicking a football after all.
The tension is there for all to see as South Hobart Ultras Uber Squawker Jono fronts a the soporific South Hobart fans.
The brave South Hobart Ultras Head Squawker Jono fronts the almost soporific South Hobart fans, whose idea of raising hell is probably dropping a scone and wincing at the splat. C’mon folks – loosen up ya tonsils, will yas?
So as they all trotted back to the halfway line, I had that sinking feeling, and started to think we were about to witness the much predicted mother of all shellackings. It didn’t get better quickly, Hellas still could’ve scored again, with dangerous balls flashing across our zone of uncertainty particularly from their left.  In fact our zone of uncertainty seemed to be growing. But the fighting spirit was about to make a comeback, and we began to show glimpses of composure, and began to get into more dangerous areas, albeit sporadically.  For some reason, the lads started to feel better about themselves – being a goal down and all and these blokes being Victoria’s finest and all – and suddenly we began to get a bit more on the front foot, got a bit more aggressive, started to play some combinations, and began to settle into the higher tempo of the game. We always do so much better when we defend from the front, and in numbers, and we soon became more recognisable as that team of ball pressers, nipping in and snapping into some tackles. Matty Le Wis, Scotty Lamont, El Fruit Salad – all got their toe in to good effect, Liam Scott looked composed and was his usual unflappable reliable self. Then in the 28th minute or so, we should’ve had a penalty. Braydos chased down some very ordinary work by the left back, nicked the ball, charged into the box, and the defender tried to get round his leg to get the ball from behind, but took out his legs, brought him down. It was a penalty. A big mistake by the referee. South Melbourne began to fray as our attacks began to be more regular and dangerous, they began to get fractious, their right back began to develop some kind of obsessive compulsive disorder, and collectively they left their foot in, went over the ball, pushed and shoved, all was waved blithely on by referee Brenton, then on about the 40th minute, the seemingly bonkers James Musa who’d been chirping like some kind of unhinged 6 foot canary went through two footed on Andy Brennan only about three quarters of an hour late, and most referees would’ve shown him a straight red. The Scottsman came in to Andy’s defence, and that was warranted and good sight to see.  It was a dangerous tackle, late, aimed at taking the player out, he should’ve gone. The players got more and more angry as nasty little ankle taps were let go by Brenton, and then just before the half ended Andy went for a wee bit of revenge, went in late and the handbags were out. This might’ve got worse, as Mister Kopra had lost the plot, and the longer the frustration grows and the spiteful behaviour is let go, the more likely someone was gonna get badly wrecked.
Half time was a welcome opportunity for everyone to take their medication and take a look in the mirror, perhaps. As the game wore on, and particularly in the second half, South Melbourne still threatened, and looked like they could score whenever they got forward, especially through the services of their big number 9 Milos “The Submarine” Lujic  who won the inaugural NPL Biggest Whinger and Obvious Diving Spiteful Bastard Award but we began to get on terms, and really started to stretch them. There is still plenty of room for improvement for our lads – the decision making falls apart at times, and poor options are tried when simple passes in the opposition’s box are missed because some of our lads develop tunnel vision when the opponents onion bag looms. Ken replaced the ankle knackered Matty Le Wis and threw on attackers, The Hammer put in a tidy and bothersome for the opposition shift, Darcy Hall came on later, and we huffed and puffed. Whatever the haters may scribble about Hellas being in second gear, they genuinely were panicking for much of the last half hour, and that’s a credit to our lads. Bren Bren had the golden chance after being put through, and I seem to recall 3 terrific opportunities he missed as he skied his effort. Mind you the opposition were guilty of that also, with a few glaring misses and some incredible goalkeeping from Kane Pierce.
As we continued to chase the game, we left a few holes at the back, and when Reed put The Submarine clean through with only KP to beat, our Kane not only took the Submarine out, but ran up into the change rooms, flushed his car keys down the dunny and sent a rude email to his aunty. A certain red and it was game over. Perhaps Brenton was evening things up, but arguably both teams should’ve been down to 10 men, and we should’ve had a penalty.
Kane had a cracker, made some terrific saves, and his rugby tackle on Musa was worthy of the NRL.
Kane had a cracker, made some terrific saves, and his coat hanger on Musa was worthy of the NRL. Houdini never made a greater escape than this guy today.
I spoke to a bloke from South Melbourne who goes to see ’em every week, and he thought they’d been complacent – had it won in their heads before they even got out there. He also reckoned that if we played in the VPL we’d be top four. Interesting.
He could've and perhaps should've but next time I bet he will. With consistency will come greatness. He made some blokes in blue and white look silly, though they had a hand in it.
He could’ve and perhaps should’ve but next time I bet he will. With consistency will come true greatness. He made some blokes in blue and white look dead silly, though they also had a hand in it.
Quite an amazing afternoon, arguably we were robbed, but Hellas could’ve won if they’d finished better, as they had more chances. We seem to never get the fabled home team advantage from referees, indeed, quite the opposite – I remember us going down 3-2 to Bentleigh Greens from a late penalty that never was from Kim Barker – the striker ran into our box, crossed the ball, kept going, tripped over Hugh Ludford’s leg and that was enough for Kim.
Our young players looked gutted post match, hopefully some more composure in the box will come with greater age & maturity and while it was sad we lost, these hard working talented lads did us and all of Tasmanian football proud.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

And that's finally that for South teams in 2019

Photo: Luke Radziminski.
I was unable to attend the women's team semi-final last Saturday because of *reasons*, reasons which the usual ones, and what could be done about it? Not much under the circumstances, but you'll have to trust me that I wish I could've been there.

Succeeding against Calder United was always going to be a tough ask, and I don't think there was anybody who didn't think otherwise. Some people thought we shouldn't even bother, and I get that - know when you're going to get beat, and just go out on a high note.

Still, such courses of action like taking the afternoon off and going to the pub instead might work for lower league men's clubs engulfed in self-inflicted crises, but here at Victorian top-flight women's football such behaviour would be considered uncouth, disrespectful, even unprofessional.

Photo: Luke Radziminski.
So the game, played on a poor pitch, with rain and wind going crazy, went on. Sitting in a local fish and chip shop at about a quarter past two, waiting for my order of flake and minimum chops to get sorted, I checked out YouTube and bloody hell! We were 3-0 down after 14 minutes, to which all I could do was exclaim on Twitter that we were 3-0 down after 14 minutes, which elicited responses ranging from "well, I think we all knew this could happen" to "well, I think we all knew thus could happen, but this really sucks."

Being 6-0 down at half-time meant that no one could see our side keeping the score line under double figures. Miraculously or otherwise, we did, keeping Calder scoreless and even pulling a goal back ourselves. So, the season and even its conclusion were not a complete disaster, and I guess everyone hopes that the young squad will have learned something from the whole experience, and will come back better for it in 2020.

And then it was done to two
Caught bits and pieces of the Moreland Zebras vs Bulleen Lions NPL2 playoff match, while watching Highway Patrol repeats and then 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown. This match sucked fr the first half, and since I was watching it on and there were no score or time graphics, it was an ordeal that I did not want to resume until both the standard and the graphical display were fixed.

Eventually this is what happened, and I rejoined the action at about 10 minutes to go in regular time, with Zebras up 1-0. And then Bulleen equalised from a penalty.
Worse, the Bulleen Lions Twitter account soft-trolled me and my loathing of Monday night soccer by liking my tweet, and further salt was rubbed into that wound when the Lions took the lead and won the game via another penalty. Bulleen now go into the relegation-promotion playoff against Dandenong Thunder on Sunday, which in all likelihood I will attend, and hopefully report on.

Friday, 6 September 2019

(NPL)Woah! South Melbourne 2 Heidelberg United 1

This about as late a match report as you can get. How 2019.

I finally, finally managed to get out to another game for our women's senior team. And lest anyone doubt my resolve to do so, yes it helped that this game was on a Sunday - but having to negotiate a very annoying double rail-replacement (radial and city loop) service should demonstrate that while I'm hardly on my way to being top-dog in the South Melbourne Ladies Active Supporters, I do at least try and get out to a few games where possible.

Before the senior women could get started, there was the matter of the under 19s, who were soon enough trailing Heidelberg 2-0, and not looking too good. Soon enough however our 19s worked their way back into the game, and stormed over the top of the visitors, winning 5-2. The thing I most remember though was the melee which nearly kicked off into a full-on dust-up after a bad tackle. It's not the kind of thing I see in women's soccer too often - usually there's a much more obvious "compassionate/duty of care style reaction" to fouls and injured players, so it was interesting from a sociological perspective, even if undesirable from a sporting one.

Photo: Luke Radziminski.
The equation for the senior women was pretty simple - win, and they'd make the finals. Any other result, and the Bergers would get in instead. Even prior to the game, there was the less than ideal situation of not having replacement keeper Shannon Flower available, and having to put in Sascha Lypiridis from the 16s for her senior debut. There was also no Sofia Sakalis, who was injured.

Our women started off well enough, looking threatening and creating some good chances. We really should've gone 1-0 up with one particular sequence of play, where it seemed the universe was conspiring against us. Then the rain and the wind came, sending the ball girls, Our Resident Cockney, and I think eventually even Heidelberg Harismidis running for cover. It was during this burst of mother nature's wrath that Heidelberg scored, whipping in a corner that went straight in, thanks in no small part to the wind swerving it in. Let that be an argument against women's teams resorting to short corners.

Second half, and you just had that feeling that despite getting on top of the game well and truly - apart from rare moments - we just weren't going to score. And then Leia Varley sent home a long range free kick into the top corner levelling the scores, and then my feeling was that we wouldn't manage to get another goal, and the season would end on this bitter disappointment - that despite the improvement we'd shown from the 5-1 loss against the Bergers, and then the 1-1 draw, that we'd be left to rue the sorry 1-1 draw against NTC.

Yes! Photo: Luke Radziminksi.
The clock ticking over to 93 minutes, in the media control room I buttoned up my jacket, put on my beanie, and got ready to go down into the social club. Then we got a free kick too far out for a shot, and though I'd hoped in a perverse way throughout the 90 minutes that we'd steal the game and the finals place from the Bergers at the absolute death, I didn't really believe that we would actually do it. But then the ball was sent into the box, the Bergers' keeper committed to getting to the ball without getting anywhere near it, a flicked header from Kelsey Minton sailed over the top of everyone and into the back of the net for the win.

The team's reward for making it to the finals? An elimination final against Calder United, this year's standout team, at Keilor Park Recreation Reserve this Saturday (ie, tomorrow) at 2:00. Calder have beaten us comfortably four times this season, three times in the league and once in the cup. While I'm not ruling out an upset, it's really very much a nothing to lose game for us.

2020 SMFC senior squad roster as of 06/09/2019
For teams still aiming for success in 2019, the season has not ended yet, but that doesn't mean our club can't get on the front foot and start announcing squad members for next year - in this case, Brad Norton, who I think we'd all have been surprised if he wasn't around next season.

For any other player on our list, it would perhaps be odd to do a re-signing announcement now without having officially named the coach, but it's Braddles, so there's nothing to see on that front. Not too long afterwards Marcus Schroen was announced as having re-signed for two more years, and the public response ranged from the relatively cheerful to those pencilling in the death of the club.

Leigh Minopoulos is the only absolutely confirmed 100% out so far, having announced his retirement prior to the end of the 2019 season. The future of Kristian Konstantinidis doesn't exactly look too promising, so there'll be umming and uhhing about that for a little bit. Meanwhile striker Billy Konstantinidis was on Football Nation Radio yesterday talking about exploring his options in the Indian Premier League.

In terms of coaches, the two names thrown up - by desperate and/or hopeful South fans more than anybody else - have been secured by other teams. Regular South Melbourne watcher and local resident Scott Miller, currently coaching at Langwarrin in NPL2, has reputedly been signed on there for another season. 

The other name belonged to ex-South player Nick Tolios, most recently of Kingston City, who have just been relegated down to NPL 2. Tolios had long been rumoured to be heading towards the Bentleigh head coaching job left vacant mid-year by John Anastasiadis, and surprisingly, Tolios has ended up at Kingston Heath on the eve of the Greens' finals campaign. Ever seen a coach get a team relegated and win a championship in the same league in the same season? Not me, but we're two weeks away from that happening.

  • Brad Norton
  • Marcus Schroen
Played with us at the end of 2019 but who knows about next year
  • Tom Aulton
  • Keenan Gibson
  • Peter Skapetis
  • Nick Krousoratis
  • Perry Lambropoulos
  • Kostas Stratomitros
  • Gerrie Sylaidos
  • Luke Adams 
  • Manny Aguek 
  • Ben Djiba
  • Amir Jashari
  • Giuseppe Marafioti 
  • Jake Marshall
  • Will Orford
  • Nikola Roganovic 
  • George Gerondaras
  • Zac Bates
  • Andrew Mesourouni
  • Josh Dorron
  • Melvin Becket
Exploring options in India
  • Billy Konstantinidis
Maybe retiring
  • Kristian Konstantinidis
  • Leigh Minopoulos (retired)
Just take the damn survey for the sake of your old pal Paulie 
The wording here is confusing to me, because I thought I was on a Football Victoria Historical Committee already. Anyway, Football Victoria has released a survey about which direction the organisation should take with regards to its historical commitments:

Football Victoria history survey

At the moment Football Victoria's historical committee (of which I am a member) has a role largely limited to oversight of things like the Hall of Fame and Life Member approvals - the survey asks whether Football Victoria should be doing more, and if so, what kind of action people in the soccer community would like Football Victoria to take.

If you could take a few minutes out of your day to fill in the survey, that would be great. If you're uncomfortable using your real name, you could always fudge that bit. Not even sure why they're asking for it.

Throwing stones from glass houses
It was a big week in footy, with some disgruntled person setting up an anonymous Twitter account and publishing document details allegedly derived from the contracts of two current Avondale players, as well as snippets of Avondale's week-by-week payment spreadsheets.

After the initial post, where the leaker had posted the contract details for Kiwi Avondale player Scott Hilliar as well as an extract from an early season portion of the payment spreadsheet, it looked like the account was locked or shut down. Soon enough however it was back up, posting details from Japanese star Tasuku Sekiya's contract - including his wage - as well as posting a spreadsheet extract from the middle of the season.

While there were some legitimate grumblings about breach of privacy most of the attention on this leak of sensitive information naturally centred upon Avondale's spending, which based on the spreadsheet snippets would be up toward the $700,000 mark.

(and for the record, while some questioned the legitimacy of the published extracts, believing them to be fake, I think the level of detail - see for instance Liam Boland receiving a sizeable monetary bonus around the time he reached 15 goals - as well as the publishing of player signatures, suggests that the documents are all too real.)

Around the grounds, those with more insight into the Avondale back office were wondering about the identity of the leaker and their motivations, while others wondered about the tax and regulatory implications, which the leaker had also emphasised as rules that Avondale had broken. I'm more of the opinion that it's the players who are probably in bigger trouble, assuming that there is actual Australian Tax Office investigation and that the players involved didn't manage their tax affairs probably.

Prurient interest aside in terms of seeing behind the curtain of semi-pro player payments, there was the unfortunate but predictable spectacle of some South fans forgetting the lessons of "be careful what you mock, lest you become it", and instead of just slowing down past the bingle on the side of the road, decided to get involved. Why, when our club is so often the subject of similarly prurient well/semi/and un-founded speculation?

Cue some minor blow-back from a former youth team coach and a former a technical director of ours, the latter of whom provided some rather unflattering comments on his time at South Melbourne. These comments were later deleted, I assume under some legal duress. It's going to be another fun off-season.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

South of the Border awards 2019

No one deserved anything for this season, yet here we are.

Player of the year: Jake Marshall. Had to give it to someone, and since barely anyone either played all or most games, or even played consistently well in most games, I'm giving it to the bloke who improved the most from last season.

Under 21 player of the year: The Cliff Hussey Memorial Trophy goes to Ben Djiba. An actual South youth player who won himself a starting position and didn't look out of place in doing so.

Goal of the year: Luke Adams' chest control and volley against Port all the way back in round 3. There were some flukey goals, a couple of nice goals by Gerrie Sylaidos, even some nice team goals, but since we barely had a striker all season, Adams' finish was the closest we'd get. And it was a nice goal.

Best performance: Heidelberg away. We looked like the real deal for half an hour.

Best away game: Also Heidelberg away. Much comedy ensued.

Call of the year: Hume goalkeeper Michael Weier's genuine concern for our emotional welfare when he noticed that we weren't abusing him.

Chant of the year: the cantor at Heidelberg away during the bride and groom's photo. Sorry to everyone else who tried to come up with chants to the tune of 'Guantanamera' or 'Go West', or whatever that very bad Josh Dorron chant out at Dandenong was.

Best pre-match/after match dinner location: Afghan Star in Sunshine.

Friends we lost along the way: A South umbrella I lost at a Catholic community hall.

Barely related to anything stupidity highlight of the year: The People's Champ actually getting the sack from a club. Who knew it could be that easy?

Friday, 30 August 2019

Happy Birthday Hellas - South Melbourne 0 Heidelberg United 3

Lately you seem like another language 
Are you in trouble, are you in trouble again
And you know how they say
The past is a foreign country
How can we go there 
How can we go where we once went
Lately - British Sea Power

Photo: Luke Radziminski.
As best as I can tell from what research has been done on this matter, the Hellas club (minus the South Melbourne part, which would arrive a few months later, but we of course count the '59 date,. not '60) was born on August 16th, 1959. So if this post is a little late in arriving, it at least matches up with the fact that our official 60th anniversary game was also late - a few weeks after the actual birth of our club.

The day started off with literal warning sirens in the social club before the main game, and a mandatory visit by the local fire brigade to make sure that there was nothing wrong, and then they left. No one moved, no one was alarmed. It was dreamlike, unreal. It had also apparently happened the day before at the women's game, probably with much the same outcome.

A different kind of alarm bell rang out after the game, one that's been ringing out for at least the past couple of years, and which has had about the same effect and has elicited the same reaction as the fire alarm going off in the social club. Maybe a few raised eyebrows, but not much action in response. "Doomed!" they scream, "we' doomed!". Well, maybe. It's always a case of wait and see for South fans, because apart from the odd banner or "sack the board" chant, there's not exactly been action. What there is a lot of is a kind of waiting for a new board and alternative direction to materialise from out of nowhere, as if a better committee and way of doing things exists in occultation, waiting to emerge at the people's most desperate hour. Maybe times are desperate enough.

Our 60th anniversary season could only really end like this, with the cliched proverbial "not a bang, but a whimper". The threatened rain kept away, the sun shone its warmth, and there were more people in row H than the previous week; but otherwise, the post-Taylor malaise continued. Ten years ago, for our 50th anniversary, the on-field stuff wasn't crash hot either - remember, we only just snuck into the finals, after two seasons of having missed them - and there was a similar (if not quite the same) sense of general doom about the club's future, notwithstanding the then pending redevelopment of Lakeside.

Yet somehow, maybe it's not just misplaced nostalgia that afflicts us now compared to then; at least the 50th anniversary had as a feature a grand gala ball, the Les Murray write up, three heritage jerseys... Sunday had Mike Mandalis and Jimmy Armstrong (two of the few regular old players to still visit Lakeside) on the field, an informal VIP gathering on the balcony, maybe some kind of function for volunteers, and a band later on. It was as low-key as low-key can get, hopefully only because more emphasis will be placed the '98 and '99 championship reunion, and not because we were a bit afraid that we might get relegated this season.

Before the game our players booted free balls into the stand, which came across as both not a good omen - keep the ball in play, even if it's only pretend - but also just begging for an insurance payout ala Saverio Rocca getting sued by Philadelphia Eagles fan after he punted a ball into the stand during a family day gig.

The Bergers dominated us on our turf. We barely threw a punch, putting in one of our tired, listless and unimaginative performances for the season, one which was a long way from the opening half and hour humiliation we dished out to the same team at the halfway mark of the season. The Bergers threatened from the start, missing a gilt-edged chance, scoring from an offside play that was called offside, and then scoring from an offside position and having it count. After that, they coasted, being nothing more than perfectly in control and disciplined. What difference did it make if they scored two more goals after that, or four? The way we were playing, we weren't likely to score any.

Leigh Minopoulos came off the bench for one last hurrah before retirement, hoping to break his duck for 2019. It didn't happen, and his final season at South will be remembered mostly for the assist he provided for Brad Norton's first goal in two season's, which gave us a win away to Knights. Kristian Konstantinidis also came off the bench, in what most are assuming will also be his last game in a South shirt, though nothing has been officially announced, only heavily hinted at. Nikola Roganovic, also possibly playing his game (again) in a South shirt, came up for an attacking corner, and made a good run at the ball, but missed making contact with the cross - which is probably for the best, as he was still wearing his cap at the time.

Getting beaten heavily by our oldest and most traditional rival on our turf, with them sealing the minor premiership is not ideal, but it could have been worse, and that's the sorry bit of grace that I'm holding into the off-season. There was a sardonic chant for the internally suspended (and not sacked, yet) Pep Marafioti, there was mirth when Heidelberg coach George Katsakis copped a yellow card when it was still 0-0, and some half-arsed chanting. Lefteri's son brought out his father's trumpet and jacket in lieu of his old man's absence, we marveled at the fact that all three bottom teams won and that it meant nothing, and that's about as much as we got out of the day. Did we even meaningfully test their keeper?

After the game as the band hired to play after the game spent 45 minutes doing a half-arsed sound check, I went to order a meal platter to share with my buddy Gains, only to be told that they weren't doing them. So after chewing the fat for a while with a few folk, doing the elongated "see ya next season" with a few more people - and hanging around until Dave got his partner's pretzel money - me and Gains went down to a newish Mexican place on Clarendon Street, where our mere presence turned a near empty restaurant into a cult hangout within the space of an hour. True story.

Think back, looking forward
For mine, the season could've gone a lot worse - we avoided relegation a lot earlier than we did last season (admittedly a very competitive year on that front), and managed to pick up two more wins than we did with a much less capable squad. Unfortunately, none of that will be pleasing to anybody, though quite what can be done about it under the circumstances

It's the first time since 2008 that we've missed the finals two years in a row - and let's not forget that we only just squeezed into the finals in 2009 by the skin of our teeth. We scored just 27 goals in 26 games, our lowest goal-scoring rate probably since the disastrous 1979 season, where we scored only 26 goals from 26 games (in 1977 we also scored just 27 from 26). While we beat the Bergers and Bentleigh, the only other points we could manage against the eventual top six was a couple of draws against Gully.

We lost three games out of four against the eventual bottom two, losing twice against Kingston and once against Pascoe Vale. Throughout the season, at certain times during games we would look fluid and dangerous; that kind of play though would seldom last long enough, the team often going into its shell, especially when it would concede soft goals against the run of play. Neither was there an identifiable and consistent game plan evident at any point during the year. Lineups changed not only due to suspensions and injuries, but just as often due to the imperceptible whim of whoever was coaching.

Con Tangalakis may have been the right (or most foolhardy) option to get us out of the mess (just) we were in last year, but the process of his eventual appointment, his overseeing a pre-season which never settled on a starting XI, the eventual sputtering, striker-less start to the season, and his probably forced resignation in the face of board (and I assume also senior player) displeasure left us in a difficult position early in the season. The appointment of Esteban Quintas as coach came across to some laypeople as the worst kind of decision, lacking any sort of ambition. Quintas and the team managed on the whole to improve the team's results and guide the team to safety earlier than what had occurred last season, but that's about all that can be said about his reign.

Despite being affected by cost-cutting, our recruiting on the whole was strange. We wasted our two visa spots on defensive midfielders, only one of whom - Kosta Stratomitros, when he wasn't injured - had any positive impact. We basically had zero strikers for most of the season. The ultimate utility player George Howard pinch-hit without success; Pep Marafioti was all left-foot and wasteful finishing; Nick Krousoratis started like a house on fire, and then fire brigade turned up and put him out; Billy Konstantinidis was a bust, who looked fantastic at times, and disinterested and frustrated at others.

The midfield lacked direction and meaningful leadership. Too many wingers, and not enough captaincy. Schroen was given an impossible task, and failed to make it work. Sometimes he made things worse, and copped the brunt of supporter frustration as the year went on. Defensively the only bright spots were the improvement of Jake Marshall at centre-back, and Ben Djiba being one of the few South youth team players who earned his spot and kept it. If Djiba was not quite a revelation at right-back, at least he was not a liability.

There will be a host of players leaving one feels, though no one knows for sure what the numbers will be. Probably Quintas will stay as coach. The ambition, as stated by the board., is play the youth, and acquire a spine to assist them. We'll see how it goes.

Next game and usual off-season blurb
I'm loathe to say that the blog will be taking a step back, because it's been a pretty laid-back affair anyway in 2019, with many half-arsed match reports and late publishing efforts. Thank goodness Sour Grapes was there to take up the slack.

But in the off-season meantime, I will be handing out my awards, I'll be catching up with some book reviews, and there'll be some artefacts and such, so there will be content on South of the Border to keep things ticking over.

One assumes the usual senior men's cobweb-blowing-out shenanigans will kick off in December, and we've been promised an AGM before this calendar year is done. For those who'll miss my wit and charm, as well as the soothing sound of my voice, all those things will still be available on If You Know Your History on Thursdays on Football Nation Radio, or afterwards if you don't catch the show live.

Until then, there's at least one more week for the senior women's team (see below for details).

Women's team
As has become my unfortunate custom this season, I intended to go to this game, but my role as weekend chauffeur has made things difficult this season. I even missed the first fifteen minutes of the live-stream against Bayside United because I was helping my mum pick olives off a the neighbours tree - first off the branches that were hanging on our side of the property line - and then later standing in their front yard, without the express written consent of the NFL (or whatever the relevant authority is for these things).

When I did manage to tune in, I wasn't particularly impressed with what I saw. The standard wasn't too flash, and our side looked listless, tired even. That's understandable - it's been a long and difficult season with a young squad, and the midweek draw against second last NTC had brought the team to the brink of missing the finals. And when an error from the goalkeeper gifted Bayside the opening goal, that was pretty much the season cooked, or so it seemed, negating the fact that Heidelberg were behind in their game against Box Hill being played at the same time.

But though the second half wasn't much better - and the defence tried to gift Bayside turnovers far too often - South somehow found a way to score twice. It depended on some grinding, workhorse individual efforts rather than stunning team interplay, but you take what you can get - and that includes a ripper save from the keeper to keep South's finals chances alive.

Those finals chances will come down to the final match of the home and away season on Sunday afternoon at 3:00PM, where South will take on Heidelberg at Lakeside. We're currently one point ahead of Box Hill United, and one point behind the Bergers. Box Hill's goal difference is too rank to see them have an impact on the finals race despite their accumulation of points. Only a win will see us through.

An unusual turn of events
The South Melbourne player development machine rolls on, albeit in this case via an unusual detour.
Two years ago Greiser played a pivotal role - especially in the absence of star striker Melina Ayres - in securing South an NPLW grand final title against Geelong Galaxy out at Broadmeadows. Two years on, and she's going to be playing in the top-grade in a different sport. It's a mad world in women's sports, but South of the Border wishes Caitlin all the best, except when she plays against Collingwood.

We'll meet again / Don't know where / Don't know when 
It's goodbye for now to Kingston City and Pascoe Vale. Though both won their final round matches - with Kingston even racing out to a 4-0 lead over Hume within half an hour - Dandenong Thunder also won their game, meaning Thunder secured the relegation playoff spot against an as yet undetermined NPL2 opponent.

As for who's coming up? At this stage the only certainty is Eastern Lions. NPL2 West in particular is very competitive, and we won't know either the automatically promoted side nor the playoff contenders until the conclusion of this week's final round on Sunday. Those cheering for the disappearance of CB Smith Reserve from our NPL alongside Pascoe Vale may even have their celebrations cut short by the possibility of another CB Smith tenant coming up, in the form of Moreland Zebras.

Even those of us celebrating the seeming absence of Monday night football in 2020 will have to wait and see if Bulleen avoid making the jump back up to our division.

Final thought
I know it would've screwed up so much of the season's planning, but we should've rescheduled our final round game for father's day.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Drama Queens - South Melbourne 2 Altona Magic 0

The scene was set for an all-time classic snooze-fest. Two teams winding down into the close of the season, nothing to aim for either up or down. It was raining, and no-one had bothered to put up the sponsor boards, which would had annoyed the sponsors if we had any that weren't board members. And the crowd was muted in interest, given the whole thing had a bit of a pre-season feeling (albeit with a bit less passion)

During this game (or after it) you may have seen an overly dramatic tweet describing the utter destitution of Clarendon Corner on Sunday afternoon.
Let me assure everyone that it was not all quite like that. There were other Clarendon Corner people within the general vicinity of that photo - they were just sitting a few rows further back, in the dry areas covered by the roof.
Photo: Luke Radziminski.

When it stopped raining, a few people gradually moved down towards the famous Row H, which for those not in the know, is the row claimed by those of us in Clarendon Corner who do not wish to associate with the nonce brigade which tends to gather in the rows immediately in front of Row H.

And while it's not like no-one turned up, but the low turnout overall, and especially in the areas quasi-traditionally inhabited (since 2012) by Clarendon Corner, created the perfect opportunity for me to enact a performance of despondent human misery.

Photo: Luke Radziminski.
But don't be concerned for me - it wasn't raining that hard, when it was raining. And don't be sad for those that were there and treated this game like the dead rubber it most surely was - there was nothing to play for, and nothing to get particularly excited about, even though the game did produce a number of chances for both teams. And don't even blame those that didn't turn up, because people do have other and/or better things to do; and besides which, didn't I tell people not to come to games if it no longer made them happy, and especially if attending games actually made them seriously unhappy?

Performative, self-preservationist, and self-conscious proto-martyr creating misery works for me, but it's not for everyone. And it's not like there's still not plenty of other naturally miserable looking people at South - especially these days - if you're into that kind of thing.

Some of the players didn't even bother turning up. Peter Skapetis was not present, as he's apparently in Greece. Who knows how long he'd had that planned, but it's good thing we're not in a relegation scrap.

Having said that, some of our injured players did make appearances in and around the ground. Luke Adams was on the South bench, not on the team sheet, but still present to offer support. Brad Norton was apparently seen trying to calm down the very upset Pep Marafioti in the tunnel outside the change rooms. And injured keeper Josh Dorron was seen tucking into a burger in the grandstand, helping put some coin back into the club and advertising the food on offer in the social club.

And can I just say, the quality of the burgers has been steadily improving week by week, even if last week's patty was almost too big too comfortably fit within the bun provided. Now let's have a round of applause for the players that did turn up, and in general put in a solid shift.

Sadly there was a moment of too much pride and passion, which has likely seen the end of one player's time at South. Having created several good opportunities early in the game and not taken them, the team won a penalty, it's second of those in two games. Hey, when it rains, it pours. Credit to Perry "the Pez Dispenser" Lambropoulos for winning the spot kick with some nifty play; I have been one of the people who was less than enthused about his being signed at all, and after that unimpressed with what he offered in the first half of the season; but I am willing to admit that I was perhaps hasty to judge his capabilities, as in general he has been one of our better players in the second half of the season (even getting forward on occasion), and I would not be completely averse to him being at the club next season.

Photo: Luke Radziminski.
Now back to the penalty. One would have assumed that some people's probably nonsense generic superstitious bias against left footers taking penalties aside, having the person who scored our only penalty for the season just a couple of weeks ago take this one as well would just be (and I am loathe to use this term) common sense. Pep Marafioti however for who knows what reason did not see it that way, and attempted to take the ball off acting-skipper Marcus Schroen, which almost saw the two come to blows right there in front of everyone.

(and when I say "everyone" here, I mean the small crowd in attendance, as well as the audience watching either from home or from some decrepit gambling den in the Caucasus, Indochina, or Arabian Peninsula.)

They tell me that team morale is good, despite everything that has gone on this year, and certainly light years ahead of last year's mess. And yet only Nick Krousoratis bothered or had the good sense to intervene and try and defuse the situation between his teammates which was threatening to get even further out of hand. He's had a rough season has Nick, but that's the kind of level-headed person I'd want on my team. And for whatever it's worth, I still think he's a very talented player who could still do a lot of damage for our club (rather than against, like some others have done) next season.

Photo: Luke Radziminski.
As for why Pep thought he ought to have taken the penalty, I do not know. Someone on a thankfully very dusty and forgotten corner of the internet suggested that there was an extant arrangement - possibly originating from preseason - to alternate penalty takers. If this is the case, that is the dumbest thing I've heard for quite some time, especially when for almost the entire season we'd earned just one penalty before last Sunday's. Now since Pep was nowhere near the league golden-boot running, and considering that Marcus had scored the only other penalty we'd earned this season, and considering that Marcus was wearing the captain's armband, I don't know what Pep was trying to achieve.

Marcus probably could have handled the situation better, but I suppose he was caught off-guard not having a taser or can of pepper spray on hand to diffuse the man trying to accost him. Maybe he was just as shocked and surprised at the rest of us at the playground antics taking place out on the hallowed turf of Lakeside Stadium. Or maybe this is an argument to go to the practice of netball or basketball, and have whoever was fouled in the penalty area take the penalty?

(at some point around here while typing up this post, whose segments were not compiled in order anyway, I got up to go to a local bakery to get some lunch)

The worst thing that could have happened after all that was for Schroen to miss the penalty, so thankfully he did manage to score the goal and put us up 1-0. I shudder to think what would have happened had he missed or had his shot saved.

As awful as that part of Sunday's spectacle was, I suppose it did at least offer the live-stream commentary team something to talk about in this dead rubber, though I'm slightly miffed now that I wasn't on special commentary for the day, the number of my guest commentary appearances having stalled at "two". Slightly more problematic was the task of the South Melbourne highlights editor, who had to try and edit out as much as possible of the nonsense between Schroen and Marafioti, an impossible task to complete to 100% levels of erasure of important moments of South Melbourne history.

It may have been unprofessional to do it the way I'm about to suggest, but I feel like my video editor friend missed an opportunity to augment the experience with the addition of an obvious yet also classic Simpsons gag.

Anyway, as expected Pep was not out on the field for the second half (replaced by Billy Konstantinidis), and I fancy that's the last time we've seen him in a South shirt. It's a pity that it's ended up this way - for all his character and playing foibles, he was one of our better players this year (though some cruel persons might say that was a problem in itself). But two brothers gone in the one season, what are the odds? And both of them ex-South juniors, which will make the board's aim of a title with 60% of our squad being South juniors a bit of a harder task.

Photo: Luke Radziminski.
The continued being a free-flowing affair, with both sides squandering chances. Magic - who have apparently just had a major backer of theirs announces his resignation from the presidency, though who knows how it will affect them next year - had a goal ruled out for offside. Eventually Konstantinidis tapped home a late goal to finish this game off as a contest

Next week
Heidelberg at home on Sunday afternoon. This will be the final game of the season for the men's team, and I don't think it could come any sooner. Unfortunately, the game also doubles up as an important fixture for what I'm still calling the minor premiership, which Heidelberg are in best place to secure.

After largely going unnoticed in 2019, apparently the club is going to make the final game a bit of a showcase of sorts for the club's 60th anniversary celebrations, so there's that to look forward to I suppose.

Cripes, it'll be the last time some of us will see each other for months! And it'll be the last time we see some or many of these players in a South shirt. I'm getting all misty-eyed. If only we knew who we were planning to turf now, we could have the Streisand backed montage ready to go.

Women stumbling in quest for finals
I was going to go to the senior women's game against Box Hill at Lakeside last Saturday, but got roped into another game instead - see the "around the grounds" section for that story. Anyway, the women lost 3-1 to Box Hill, and made things more difficult for themselves in terms of trying to secure the final spot in the finals. Again, not that any of the three teams (ourselves, the Bergers, or Box Hill) vying for fourth are likely to do any damage in the finals - especially as they'll have to play Calder first up - but it would be nice to at least make it. So the loss against Box Hill was a pretty important one, but not quite the season-ending game it could've been

That probably came yesterday, with the side playing out a 1-1 draw vs the NTC at Knox. I didn't get out there, of course, but I manage to watch the game (or at least most of it) on the stream. It was not one of our better performances, something I could tell from the stream despite it being filmed at ground level, having no commentary or graphics, and with the placement of portable goals all around the perimeter giving poor depth perception having me even bigger problems than usual trying to figure out what was going on.

Skip Fulton graciously let us know that at half time we were 1-0 up, thanks to a Nat Martineau goal, scored before confusion about the stream - which was originally tagged as Southern vs Heidelberg - was cleared up. I did see our late-season replacement keeper save a penalty during the first half, adding to her short-term reputation as being something more than a short-term fix.

The second half was just as confusing to me as the first (not least in part because I was switching back and forth between the stream and another project), because I thought we'd scored a goal from a Leia Varley free kick but then a comment online asked why it was disallowed. When NTC scored, I wasn't sure then if it was an equaliser or just a goal clawed back, and the initial social media response from the club at the conclusion of the game was that we'd won the game 2-1.

That was later corrected (with an apology) to 1-1, with Varley's goal being disallowed at it came from an indirect free kick; a result which sees us sit a point behind Heidelberg, who have a game in hand against Southern United. We play the Bergers in the last round, and the Bergers also have a game against Box Hill whee they could drop points, but at this stage it appears that even if we beat Bayside this Saturday afternoon at Lakeside and the Bergers in the last round at home, it's the Bergers with the best shot of making finals. It's been that kind of year.

More videos uploaded
I've uploaded a couple more hour long compilations of South Melbourne highlights from circa 1988-1992. These come from Banger's collection, and you can check them out on my channel here, along with other South videos. I've tagged/timestamped the individual games in the description sections, but there's often little snippets of other stuff which I haven't bothered to tag - consider them bonus material.

Puskas film update
A few months ago, some readers showed some concern about whether this film was actually still being made. I did not have a definitive answer then. I can say now that 'yes', the film is still in production. Work related and other commitments slowed down the process, but it is still going. I don't have much directly to do with the film's production, but I will do what I can to keep the ball rolling. I'd give you an estimated time of completion, but it's really up to the guys making the film to get the film to a stage where it can be finished and shown to the public.

Around the grounds
Please make this season end
Trundled out to Quarries Park or whatever it's called for Clifton Hill vs Yarraville. You want a game that meant nothing? Here it was. Two teams so bad they deserved to be relegated, but thanks to a mass restructure of the league system coming soon, they've been left to spin their wheels for most of the season, like so many clubs in a similar position. It's half the reason I've barely been to an Altona East game this year. Maybe because it meant nothing, there was hardly anybody there. I was there to watch a friend's son make his senior starting debut as goalkeeper for Clifton Hill. He did OK, but his team still lost 2-1.

Operation Italian White Whale
I've started the idiotic process of trying to update the infamous Victorian Italian club merger chart. It will take a very long time, will probably kill me, and end up being heinously incorrect if I ever do finish it. That being said, if you or someone you know actually knows the dates of Italian club mergers hitherto unrepresented in the current flowchart, please get in contact with me.

I've already had several good leads and prompts, with Anstey Roma's 1970 merger with Triestina, the Cobram split and re-merger, and the Mildura split in 1979/80.

Final thought
Το καλό πράγμα αργή να γίνει as my old man likes to say.


Forgive the lateness of my reply.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Brief secondhand notes from SMFC members forum on 15/08/19

I wasn't there - I was here - this is just stuff that I've absorbed through a mystical aether. 

In some respects much of the following material seems to resemble stuff that would get mentioned at an AGM, just without the detailed financial reports. President Nick Maikousis and club secretary Mario Vinaccia did most of the talking, in front of an attendance of about 30 odd members.

One of the taekwondo practitioners who use the social club for their training dislocated their shoulder on the futsal court just before the members forum started. So, you know, promising start, heinous omen and all that. A speedy recovery to our Olympic hopeful.

The board claimed that the club's external debts would be gone next season, but that director repayments would still be there. Despite the external debt being lifted, money would not be reinvested toward the playing budget. This suggests not only a desire to pursue the club's recently announced and youth product oriented "Baby Blues" program as well as a desire to attract players from other clubs that wish to participate within that ethos - it also suggests a reluctance to get involved in the player wage arms race which is taking place in this league.

In terms of of rumours of players being owed money, the club cited that they use a different payment system to many (if not most) other clubs, with wages being paid monthly even during the off-season. This results in a better (more balanced?) cash flow for the club. The board noted the difficulty of attracting players from other clubs, with the reason being players accepting more lucrative offers from other clubs. I suppose though that no matter what the club says and regardless of whatever the truth may be), rumours of us falling behind in player payments will continue to circulate.

There was a rumour published in Neos Kosmos that Andrew Mesorouni (who was not present at this members forum) was putting the most money into the club and thus controlling the club. This rumour was rejected by the board.

With regards to the stadium, it was noted that at state government level, if AAMI Park is unavailable, Lakeside is the backup. There was concern from members on how our football veto works in this situation, possibly with regards to the arrival of Western United on the scene. There was mention of ongoing issues with the State Sport Centres Trust, some of which related to simple bureaucracy, as it relates as government people coming and going, and (I assume again) relationships (and understandings) having to be built and re-built on a frequent basis. All in all, nothing particularly new here - these are questions which regularly brought up at club sanctioned member gatherings. Still, it's good to see these matters get a run, because they will remain relevant to our well-being for hopefully the next four decades.

There was also some discussion on how to retain young players and parents, miniroos and junior sub-committee which include parents. With regards to the turnover in technical directors, at least in the most recent case it's simply a matter of the hiring of the previous guy not really working out.

It was noted that the league's live-streaming this season had had a noticeable effect on attendances (and gate money) for the negative - this is, to be fair, a league-wide issue. The only saving grace from NPL Victoria's live-streaming was the chance for the club to save some money on our media team costs (even though some of those costs will be lost next season when Football Victoria institute their $5,000 media levy). It was noted also that promised income from the streaming had not eventuated; it's unclear if this is solely a South Melbourne issue, or once again a league-wide issue.

On the matter of bringing back the name "Hellas" now that the National Cub Identity Policy is no longer in operation, the board noted that the name has not been used for decades, and that it was not a pressing issue for the club/board, and not something they were looking to initiate - however, the club's members would ultimately have a say in the matter.

There was the odd (to me at least) situation that there are currently 13-14 (depending on who/how you count) active board members (see right) which exceed's the limitations set by the club's constitution. The board responded that some of these people are observers and/or volunteers, and not decision makers.

There was some discussion about the second division/Championship model, which included the hope (from the board at least; I'm not sure if anyone else agreed) that our latent/dormant/in occultation fan-base would return to the club if it played in a proper second tier. However, as there are still many details to be settled with regards to the second division, it's not really worth discussing it in  much depth.

It was promised that the next AGM would be held this year.

For some reason the old news that Chris Taylor knocked back Nelly Yoa way back when was brought up.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Members forum this Thursday

A members forum has been announced for August 15th (this Thursday) in the social club, with a starting time of 7:00PM.

Unfortunately, due to my Thursday evening radio commitments, I won't be able to attend this meeting. If someone wants to volunteer to act as the people's scribe in my place so we can post something up on South of the Border after the fact, that would be really good. Otherwise I'm going tio have to cobble together stuff from internet babblings.

I'm posting the contest of President Nick Maikousis' email below, because not every member seems to receive emails.

Monday August 12th, 2019 
Dear Members, 
As we near the end of the 2019 NPL Victoria season, I want to take this opportunity to update you on some key issues at our club. Subsequently, I will be holding a members-only forum in our social club on Thursday 15th August starting at 7pm. We will be scheduling regular quarterly member forums so that we can better communicate with our members. 
SMFC is a proud and decorated club in Australian football, with four National League titles, ten State League titles and numerous other honours throughout the last 60 years. However, the hard work has only just begun as we begin setting ourselves up for the next phase in the Australian football landscape. 
As part of this, it is the vision of the board and our fan base to aim at restoring our reputation as a major football club in Australia and broader Asia. By doing so, we will always aim to be playing at the highest levels of the game in this country. As such, we believe that we are currently undertaking important steps to make this happen. 
The club has performed exceptionally in the digital space over a long time by growing our online channels and fan base through mediums such as social media. However, we must build on this and aim at increasing our supporter and member base to ensure that every game SMFC participates in can be seen as a fixture of interest. 
We are also well aware that on-field performances at both senior and junior level need to improve. With this in mind, the Football Department is making positive steps towards this objective. Non-performance is simply not part of the SMFC DNA and is something that we cannot accept. 
The board’s 2019 immediate focus was predominantly to generate additional revenue to assist with reducing club debt and to complete a comprehensive board restructure, which includes implementing a robust marketing and football department. With additional resources and an increase in our volunteer numbers, we envisage that our social club debt will be fully settled by the end of next year. We strongly believe that all these changes and plans will enable us to move forward at lightning speed. 
The 2020/2021 season will bring new challenges, encompassing changes to our game with a new NPL structure and the introduction of a new National League. We are committed to embracing these huge changes to our game and are planning to work closely with the AAFC, Football Victoria and Football Federation Australia to ensure that we are able to hit the ground running in these competitions. 
Finally, I wish to thank you, the South family, for your continued support in what has been a tough year. We have always been proud of being a members-based club and we will remain as such moving into this new era. The Board and Directors of this club are here to represent the membership and we assure you that we will continue to reflect the views outlined by our members. 
An overview of what work has been done at the club can be found below. I look forward to seeing you all at the membership forum on Thursday and during our remaining two matches of the season.
Senior Men 
Despite our inconsistent and at times frustrating performances during the 2019 season, we must take some positive moments away that could see vast improvements on the pitch for the 2020 season. 
We are well aware that our senior team’s performance affects various parts of the business, including support in the stands, membership and the support of our corporate partners. As such, the performance of our senior team has historically been critical at our club and nothing has changed, not even in this era. 
The club has appointed Andre Meyer to the role of Technical Director for next season. With the recent restructure and clear focus on resourcing the football department, we believe we will be ready to make an impact from the opening round in 2020. 
It is also our aim to strengthen our young squad by actively targeting senior and experienced players to compliment the youth coming through our ranks. 
Football Development and Restructured Youth Program
As announced late last year, Michael Valkanis took on the role of Football Ambassador. New Technical Director Andre Meyer will join Michael in driving our football development program in 2020. 
One main focus is to build a strong and welcoming club culture across all our youth teams, whilst at the same time concentrating on the development of individuals as footballers. We have also added additional resources to our MiniRoos and Junior programs, including new community sides in line with the recent Football Victoria changes. 
With added personnel, increases in volunteers and a new direction, we believe these changes will further assist our growth in this area. 
The Baby Blues Program
Some thirty years ago under Brian Garvey, the club had a vision to develop its own youth players and have them experience success at senior level wearing the famous blue and white. We have begun implementing this very strategy this season and will continue doing so in 2020. 
As such, it is our five-year vision to win a senior team championship with at least 60% home-grown players. In the past 18 months, ten players have been promoted from our Under 20s to play senior NPL football for our club. This includes the likes of Will Orford, Manny Aguek, Ben Djiba, Giuseppe and Giordano Marafioti, Zac Bates and George Gerondaras, whilst victorious Under 20s captain Giorgi Zarbos and goalkeepers Amir Jashari and Angelo Rigogiannis have been unused substitutes. 
Senior Women
2019 has seen several changes within our senior women’s team. With numerous championship winning players either moving overseas or relocating interstate for opportunities in the Australian team setup, it left coach Mick Gallo and his staff with a relatively new and very young squad from the early stages of this season. It has resulted in a great opportunity to give many Under 19s youth players an opportunity to test themselves at senior level, as well as the squad to gain experience in a tough NPLW Victoria competition. 
With just a few rounds remaining of the NPLW Victoria regular season, our senior women are still very much in contention for yet another finals appearance and we encourage as many of our supporters to attend their matches to support them in their quest for another championship. 
Corporate Growth
Commerical & General has been the club’s Major Partner in 2019 as well as strategic supporters and a part of the Australian football fabric for over two decades. They are considered to be one of Australia’s leading property development and investment management organisations, boasting major projects across the country. We recently confirmed that Commercial & General has extended its relationship with the club as Major Partner for the next two seasons. 
We are also excited to welcome Pelligra as a Principal Partner for the next two seasons, following Ross Pelligra’s full support during our A-League bid last year. 
It is the aim of the Board and Commercial Operations to grow our corporate base in 2020, including a focus on a return on investment in being associated with SMFC’s strong brand. Our focus on growing and servicing our corporate base is integral in the growth of the club, so we urge all our members and supporters to support the organisations that support our club. 
Finally, we are working towards building long-term passive income streams.
60th Year Club Anniversary 
We proudly celebrate our 60th year anniversary this year. As we all know, in 1959 the Hellenic and Yarra Park clubs merged to form Hellas Soccer Club and a further merger with South Melbourne United formed South Melbourne Hellas. Since then, our club has gone from strength to strength and evolved into the modern-day South Melbourne Football Club. 
Over six decades, we have been at forefront of Australian football and have experienced some incredible and glorious moments. Another consistency throughout our 60 years has been the involvement of volunteers and committed individuals that have driven the passion of our club. Along with the high expectations of our large and passionate fanbase, the existence of volunteers has been a key to our long-term success. 
As a sign of respect and gratitude to all that have helped the club since 1959, we will be recognising and celebrating our anniversary in numerous ways. We have already introduced a heritage anniversary logo created and implemented across club marketing, digital mediums and selected merchandise. We thank our media team for all their hard work in creating this for us. 
We will celebrate our 60th anniversary milestone at numerous events, including at our final game of the NPL Victoria season on Sunday 25 August against Heidelberg United at Lakeside Stadium (kick-off at 3pm). We have invited former players, coaches and officials to join us that day as we farewell the 2019 season and begin looking forward towards 2020. I would love to see as many people from all six decades of our club attend Lakeside Stadium in what promises to be a memorable occasion. 
Back to Back NSL Grand Final Reunion
We will also be recognising the 20-year anniversary of our amazing back-to-back National League Championship teams. 
We will be hosting a special reunion event later in the year at Lakeside Stadium, where we will welcome all players, coaches, staff and key volunteers that were involved in that special achievement. Details are currently being finalised and will be released closer to the day. 
Board Restructure and Update
There has been significant change at board level, with Ross Pelligra, Dennis Durant and Erik Zimmerman joining the board in the past month. They join Peter Kokotis and Tass Roufos, who both joined the board at the last Annual General Meeting, as fresh faces in the new structure. 
Each one of the new additions have joined to strengthen specific areas of our club, including our Commercial and Strategy Sub-Committees. 
We have also taken the strategic initiative to form an Executive Leadership Team for the Youth Development Program and welcome those new members and volunteers to the SMFC family.

National Second Division “The Championship”
In the past twelve months, we undertook a great deal of work regarding the strategic development and business planning as part of the A-League bid. Whilst the result didn’t go our way, the planning undertaken in that particular phase has strengthened the club off the pitch and has positioned us well for the implementation of the Championship.
We have also continued to work hard behind the scenes to ensure that we are ready to participate in this newly formed league. Whilst we were the only operating football club to reach the final stages of the recent A-League expansion process, we are in no way assuming that a place in the Championship will be handed to us. 
Subsequently, we will continue to be involved with the formulation and structure of the Championship via our unequivocal support of the AAFC. For those unaware, the AAFC is playing a hugely critical role with numerous federations and other key stakeholders to make this concept work for Australian Football. We would like to congratulate our former long-standing Chairman Nick Galatas in his recent appointment as new AAFC Chairman. 
Recently, I attended an open meeting with FFA Chairman Chris Nikou, who was fully supportive of a more conventional football system which included the introduction of the Championship. 
NCIP Changes
Like many other clubs, we are of the view that this has been a significant step forward for Australian Football and support the broader views of the football community regarding this change. 
All clubs will be provided with a simple set of guidelines moving forward with the removal of the NCIP, but it remains critical that no other community is offended, insulted or discriminated. 
Personally, I envisage little change in terms of the operations of our club position and branding. 
From a club perspective, most understand our long and rich heritage and they certainly understand the strong ties between South Melbourne and the huge Greek Community throughout the nation. 
The reality is that that it has been three decades since we have actively used the Hellas brand in our daily operations and at this stage we are not looking to make any sudden changes to the club’s identity. However, we must also remember that we’re a members-based club and the views of the membership will be heard and ultimately determine our destiny.

Yours in football, 
Nicholas Maikousis