Monday, 18 February 2019

So this is how it's going to be - Bentleigh Greens 3 South Melbourne 1

Another seasons starts, and another half brilliant (express trains and quick bus connections) and half awful (25 minute bus wait, stop all stations train, missed connection to Sunbury by two minutes) public transport situation. So it goes, we're all used to this by now, me  doing it, and you hearing about it from me.

Got to Kingston Heath early enough to catch the 20s game, a solid come from behind win. Orford, Mesourouni, Djiba, and Aguek all played in that game, with Aguek putting away a nice volley.

I don't think any of us are expecting miracles this season. We expect the side to be a mid-to-lower ranked team. We want them to do better, but we're right in the middle of a rebuild that's partly been done out of necessity, and partly self-inflicted. If we can avoid a relegation scrap, that would be great, but we have to be realistic. There's a lot of new players, a lot of young players, and we're in a league where the spending is out of control.

Going to Bentleigh in round 1 was probably the worst thing that could happen to us - unless we could've somehow pinched a point or three - but it was unlikely that we had any luck left over from last year's heroics. So, I guess most of us were expecting to lose, but I think most of us are pleased with how the team performed in general.

Going forward we looked pretty good - a little too dependent on counter-attacks perhaps, but that's probably where our strength is going to be - the key there being not to fall behind too often, because then conservative opponents - of which Bentleigh is not one - will have the luxury of sitting back.

Keeping Gerrie Sylaidos at attacking mid instead of shifting him to the wing seems the thing to do. Yes, he's probably more likely to get beat up and bruised in the middle, but so much is going to depend on his talent this season. Keep him in the middle and keep opposition defences guessing whether he's going to go left, right, or through the middle. And hopefully our forwards get on to the same page as him.

Nick Krousouratis looks like a great get - here's hoping for consistency on his part. Pep Marafioti looks OK to me, but I'm more sympathetic to him than others might be. George Howard did OK as a makeshift centre forward, but we lacked height and strength in that centre-forward role, and unless Pep gets shifted there, we're going to need Billy Konstantinidis sooner rather than later.

Gio Marafioti didn't have a great game coming off the bench; he looked a little lost, and ran around like a little dog chasing hard, but not smart. He's a better player than that, and hopefully we get a chance to see that. It was disappointing not to see Leigh Minopoulos out there on Friday, but apparently he got a broken nose in Adelaide. Marcus Schroen needs to get his fitness up quickly.

Defensively, I was at the other end of the ground so I can't say with much authority what went wrong or right at that end of the ground, but the second goal we conceded had three players who went to ground. Granted, one of them was the keeper, but even there Roganovic more or less took an air swing with his sliding/diving challenge.

3-1 was probably a fair scoreline. I don't think we did enough right at either end to warrant the win, but a draw would not have an unjust result. But we didn't make the most of our opportunities when we had the ascendancy in the first, and we look likely to cop soft goals this year, if pre-season form is anything to go by.

Seeing as how this game seemed to conform to our pre-season form, and the expectations people had around what the squad's strengths and weaknesses were likely to be, there's one question that remains for me at least. That is, if that it what our mean/median/mode/average performance is going to look like, what are we going to produce for the rest of the season?

One real game is a small sample size from which to extrapolate, but apart from a very few Negative Nancies, I think we all know where this team sits: hopefully just good enough to avoid relegation, and if we somehow made the finals, that would be a huge bonus. We were told that the team would be competitive; again, it's too early to draw much meaning from a single game, but we were competitive on Friday night against a likely title contender.

I don't normally do call to arms nonsense, but I hope that our supporters in general don't get on the backs of the coach or players too quickly. They need our support, and I think if we can get through what will probably a difficult season, then the benefits will repay themselves in the coming seasons.

Of course this team could surprise us all and do extra-well - here's hoping for that.

So what do we need to achieve to survive? (nobody panic)
Let's assume for argument's sake that we're a relegation battler. If that's the case, we need to get at least a certain amount of points to keep us safe. Last season we survived thanks to eking out 28 points and somehow getting a decent goal difference (thanks Dandy Thunder). Now in your typical 26 game season, 28 points is usually enough to get you through, but it almost wasn't enough last season.

30 points however, notwithstanding some catastrophic turn of events, should be enough to get you over the relegation line. Our old mate Psile agrees on this, so the question then becomes, where are we going to get those 30 points? We're probably not going to get ten wins, zero draws, and sixteen losses; so that leaves us either aiming for eight wins and six draws, or seven wins and nine draws.

I'm not going to cast reckless aspersions on the teams I think we should beat - I'll leave that to the comments section - but the sooner we get to 30 points, the better. Judging by the performance on Friday night, I think we can do it, but you'd like to get at least a decent chunk out of the way while we're on the road these first few weeks.

Next game
Dandenong City at home, on Friday night. Dandy City got crunched 4-1 and copped a red card at home against Avondale, and considering that no one is really expecting anything from us this season, it's possible to already see this as a relegation six pointer.

Obviously that's a tad melodramatic, because there'd still be 24 games after this one even if we lose it - or even if we win it - but it does kinda feel like a pretty damn massive game. Billy Konstantinidis, the Australian striker signed from Greece, arrived in Melbourne last week, but who knows how quickly he'll be added to the starting eleven.

Apart from collecting your membership and/or membership pack, Friday is a good chance for those who out of habit boycott away games or who have decided to boycott away games this year, to see the South men's senior team for the only time in the first month and a bit of the season. It'll also be interesting to see how the social club and food services handle a crowd.

2019 squad announced
The other week the club announced its official senior men's squad for 2019. It's pretty damn young.

NPLW or WNPL... one of those two
The senior women start their league campaign this Saturday afternoon, away at Southern United at Monterey Reserve.

One blog... two blogs.. but he... but you can't... oh, my medication!
A new blog has been started by Luke Radziminski, one of the club's media interns. I didn't realise that people were still starting blogs. I mean, I was late on to the blog fad when I started this thing so many years ago. Fans of South of the Border should rest assured that as I have crushed all previously competing South Melbourne Hellas blogs - OK, just the one, which was done by Cliff before I got him to here - I will also crush this one.

But more seriously, if there's genuine longevity in this project, it could be really good. In Luke's own words:
This is a long-term project proposed by a media intern from the club to create a database and archive photos for South Melbourne. The aim is to create a library of photos at every possible game for fans to look back on over the years. I try to capture the environment of the venue and any engagement with the fans and what story has unfolded. There will be photos borrowed and provided from other media personnel who have photographed at the event as well.
I might actually have to have a chat with this bloke.

Contribute to South of the Border
I'm always on the lookout for new contributors, so if you want to do something on a regular or irregular basis, do get in touch, even if it;s just to send me a bit of history for an artefact segment.

Match programs
Just a reminder also that South of the Border is always on the lookout for South Melbourne related match programs. If you've got something that will help fill in one of the gaps here. Hit me up via email or see me at a game.

Final thought
Coming into Sunshine station after a two hour Friday night public transport hike from Cheltenham, a bloke who'd been at the Oakleigh game started chatting with me - because of my South beanie, I assume - and among his observations was that Nick Epifano looked weak. True story.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

"it came out of the closet" - artefact Wednesday - junior Marathon Foods top

Many years ago, but not quite as many as I initially thought - just a tick over four years ago, so roughly some time in 2014 - Ned Negus, the son of broadcaster and former soccer administrator George, was giving away a whole bunch of jerseys he'd found at an old holiday house.

He made that announcement on Twitter, and I jumped in as quickly as I could hoping there would be something to do with South Melbourne. Now usually I'm quite late on these things whenever they become available, and someone has already snaffled up the good stuff - but on this occasion I was lucky - there was a South shirt amid Ned's collection.

The seeming catch was did I want to wear it or just own it, because the shirt was a small size - extra small in fact. Well, I didn't mind either way, and after sending Ned the due postage - he didn't ask for any payment above that - the shirt arrived at what was then Casa South of the Border, along with a kids size Newcastle Breakers jersey of a similar vintage to the South jersey. 

For some reason I don't have a photo of that Breakers top, but no matter - I sent it away recently to Todd Giles, the amateur historian collecting Newcastle soccer history, who has been kind enough to share Newcastle vs South Melbourne related match programs with South of the Border, and thus also with this blog's audience. All part of an attempt at preserving soccer history, and keeping local soccer history local - well, at least more local than is often the case.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Take me out to the ball game (reprise)

Well, interesting news courtesy of the Herald Sun (and courtesy of the clever duck on Twitter who took a photo of the relevant article so we don't have to deal with News Corp paywalls).



It appears that the Melbourne Aces of the Australian Baseball League are considering shifting the at least some or possibly even the majority of their home matches to Lakeside Stadium.

Now for those who need a quick refresher of baseball in Australia. It's been around in Australia for a long, long time; it had a national league that was televised to a degree in the 1990s which eventually tanked; another national comp which tanked even faster than the previous; and it is now on to its third national league, which was initially funded by Major League Baseball but is now in the hands of independent investors since MLB divested itself of most (all?) of its responsibility.

Melbourne's current national league representatives, the Aces, play their home games out of the Melbourne Ballpark out in the back blocks of Altona/Laverton, a facility perfectly suited to baseball despite its age (built circa late 19080s), but which is also seen as a white elephant by Melbourne's baseball community, for the simple reason it seems of its location.

Now I'm biased, because I live a ten minute drive from Melbourne Ballpark, but even aside from that, it doesn't seem like that hard of a venue to get to - it's right off the Princes Freeway, and not that much of a walk from Laverton station. But that's eastern suburbs people for ya, no sense of geographic perspective. Or maybe baseball is a predominately eastern suburbs based sport in this city

(Incidentally, while I've seen the quip made by at least one South supporter that this is some sort of proof that FFA selecting a team to be based out of Tarneit is madness, the ideas behind Melbourne Aces and Western Melbourne Group are fundamentally different; more to the point, they also exist within fundamentally different sporting and business environments, with their current suburban proximity - assuming WMG even end up in Tarneit - a mere coincidence rather than anything we can draw causation based conclusions from).

Anyway, the Aces struggle to pull a crowd, and their soon to be owner reckons there isn't much point in sticking it out at the costly ballpark which won't pay its own way, because people won't go. This is not a new problem for the Aces, as originally they played out of the Melbourne Showgrounds, a ridiculous situation due to the small size of the field.

The solution to the Aces' problem - or at least a big part of the solution - is to play baseball out of Lakeside Stadium. Yes, that Lakeside Stadium, the one that is currently used by athletics and soccer. I can't get my head around how that would even look, and I'll leave that to the boffins behind this scheme to work out - but they reckon it'll be easy to move in and out without undue disruption to the stadium.

At the moment, the ABL runs a 40 game regular season with an additional playoff series from November to early February. Typically, each team plays 20 games at home, bundled into series of four matches. These are usually played on a Friday night, Saturday afternoon/evening double header, and Sunday afternoon, with Thursday games sometimes taking a game off the Saturday double-header.

Ignoring for a moment the new Aces owner's desire for overseas teams and such to visit - which is a long way from happening considering the crowds the Aces pull now - the Aces are looking to spend part of December and perhaps most (if not all) of January at Lakeside.

There do however appear to be contradictory statements when looking at the article in question and some of the commentary on social media around this matter. In the article, the claim is that there would be only 6-8 matches played At Lakeside (equivalent of about 1.5/2 home series), but a commentator on Twitter claims all but the equivalent of two home Aces' series will be played at Lakeside, with probably one at Altona, another at a regional facility.

(Peter Rolfe, the article's writer, also appears to be under the impression that Lakeside Stadium seats 7,400 patrons; as we have established before here on South of the Border, the stadium only seats 5338 patrons, unless they bring back the temporary stands that were used for the Nitro series.)

Whatever the specifics of this plan, should it go ahead it will prove disruptive to South Melbourne Hellas (I can't speak for athletics on this matter), because we do spend a fair bit of January training and playing practice games (albeit this year the latter behind closed doors).

(though I fancy some of you will be happy with the thought that such a plan would also mean fewer opportunities for Melbourne Victory's affiliated teams to play out of the venue.)

We already lose access to the ground for a good chunk of the early part of the season (for good and bad reasons), and now this? More running around searching for grounds to train on? If we were able to capitalise on the Aces playing out of the venue by getting people to come into the social club, I'd be less instinctively against the idea, but I just can't see that happening. Fat chance, too, of getting  cut from the rent that the Aces would be paying.

Of course we'll ll be keeping an eye on developments on this front. I do wonder if the South Melbourne board were aware of this plan.

Friendly Result - West Adelaide 0 South Melbourne 2

So, everyone happy now? A first clean sheet during this pre-season since our very first hit out against Moreland City late last year.

Look, I don't know anything about what happened last night except for what few snippets have been reported, which is basically, 0-0 at halftime, 2-0 to us at full time, and Manny Aguek scored both goals late. No details about starting elevens, quality of the opposition, etc.

So, on to round 1 this Friday at Kingston Heath, against a Bentleigh Greens side which a few days ago in the Community Shield reportedly easily took care of an overweight and unfit Heidelberg side seemingly still recovering from its championship.

If you want to talk about brushing off the cobwebs, take a look at that long, unwieldy sentence, bloody hell.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Friendly result - South Melbourne 3 Manningham United Blues 3

Rain to the left...
A smooth trip into the city from the western suburbs and outwards again towards Albert Park on the tram, albeit not the first packed tram, but one arriving soon after that was a bit roomier. I hear that some people had hassles coming in via Punt Road, but that's another story.

Inside the social club, a small gathering of South members and members-to-be gathered to collect and pay for memberships. Some of us also try the food on offer in the social club, which now that I've sampled a couple of things on the menu, can justifiably say that the offerings are certainly more than a mere a cut above what was on offer last year. Whether the crew operating the social club space can adjust to the different demands of a match day - where punters will demand speed and probably a lower price line - remains to be seen; but as a more traditional bistro space, I haven't got any complaints yet.

... and rain to the right. Photos: Paul Mavroudis.
Outside, fortune of fortune, there was a friendly on. What magnificent serendipity. And soon the good guys were 2-0 up, and looking sharp, well, at least sharpish. Then our esteemed merged, de-merged, and merged guests, who have been through at least three of the four stomachs of the ruminant and much famed Victorian Italian club merger flowchart, pulled a goal back, thanks to some sloppy marking.

So it has been from what little I have from this pre-season, where whatever adequate play has been manufactured going forward, just as much inadequacy has been found going toward the other, less desirable direction. Manningham pulled it back to 2-2, Will Orford scored a belter of a goal to make it 3-2 - he dispossessed an opponent in midfield, and curled a shot in from distance over an out of position goalkeeper - before the visitors made it 3-3, after which the scoring ended.

The members of the crowd who were there to support Manningham - recently promoted from State League 1 to NPL2 - got very excited with their goalscoring exploits, perhaps unduly so for pre-season; but since I spontaneously rose from my seat in excitement after Orford scored his goal, I guess there's limits to how much I can chide them for their enthusiasm.

The rain bucketed down, the ground became sloshed, players lost their footing and their positioning, and made frequent errors in passing the ball. I'm not sure what anyone would have learned from the exercise to be honest, and well before the end of the contest, the benches of both sides were cleared, and those still playing were left to duke it out in the pouring rain.

Need More Greeks! / 2019 SMFC senior squad roster as of 7/02/2019
You People™ asked for an unapologetically big, gnarly, traditional centre-forward, and you've got your wish. And bonus points, he's Greek, which fits in with one of the themes of our off-season recruitment strategy, that being "need more Greeks" - not that there's anything wrong with that.

As the official site's blurb says, Billy Konstantinidis is a Melbourne centre-forward (no visa spot required) who has spent the better part of the last decade and a bit playing for several lower league teams in Greece. Though if you trust Wikipedia, and who doesn't, Billy hasn't been playing or scoring much in recent seasons.

And here's some bonus trivia - Billy, who turns 33 in April, played in East Richmond's last season of senior football in 2004, which is a hell of a long time ago on a number of fronts.

Now I don't know how fit Billy is and whether he's ready to go from round 1. Much the same however can be said about some of other players who have had injuries, but especially Marcus Schroen who has missed a good chunk of this pre-season with trips to Cambodia (late last year), and apparently now Sri Lanka.

Combined with that, there has been that much rotation of squads during the practice games that I honestly have no idea what Con Tangalakis' best starting eleven is. Chances are that whatever lineup Tangalakis chooses to field against West Adelaide on Saturday will probably be close to the starting eleven which will take the field against Bentleigh in round 1.

But back to Billy Konstantinidis, who has been touted by the club as the team's last signing before the start of the season. That statement means the categories I've used to keep track of who's in, who's out, and who's been hanging around, have had to be reshuffled. One wants to trust the announcements about players signed, and players gone, but the great mass of those in the middle remain problematic. So I've decided to sort them into two groups one being players who were at Lakeside last year and at pre-season this year and thus likely signed up, and a handful of others whose status is more tenuous.

There's more than 20 players in the list, so I'm assuming at least a few will end up in the 20s.

Signed
  • Dean Bereveskos (Bonnyrigg White Eagles) 
  • Ethan Gage (Bentleigh Greens)
  • Kristian Konstantinidis (signed until end of 2019) 
  • Nick Krousoratis (Green Gully)
  • Perry Lambropoulos (Port Melbourne) 
  • Brad Norton (signed until end of 2019) 
  • Kostas Stratomitros (Oakleigh Cannons)
  • Gerrie Sylaidos (Northcote) 
  • Billy Konstantinidis 
Seen hanging around pre-season training and I assume signed for us because they played for us last year
  • Luke Adams 
  • Manny Aguek 
  • Ben Djiba
  • George Howard 
  • Amir Jashari
  • Giordano Marafioti 
  • Giuseppe Marafioti 
  • Jake Marshall
  • Andrew Mesorouni
  • Leigh Minopoulos 
  • Will Orford
  • Nikola Roganovic
  • Marcus Schroen 
  • Giorgi Zarbos
Seen hanging around pre-season training and buggered if I know what their signing status is.
  • Melbourne Heart Ball Hog
  • Zack/ch Bates?
  • "Calvin"
Injured
  • Alastair Bray 
Out
  • Rory Brian (Oakleigh) 
  • Matthew Foschini (Oakleigh) 
  • Josh Hodes (Oakleigh?) 
  • Christos Intzidis (FK Palanka, Lithuania) 
  • Milos Lujic (Oakleigh) 
  • Oliver Minatel (Canada) 
  • Ndumba Makeche (Penang FA) 
  • Tim Mala (North Sunshine)

At last, my love has come along / My lonely days are over / etc
I'm not going to say that I don't even care if we get relegated now, but let us all appreciate this moment.
For years I have argued that we need these as opposed to the bland, pompom-less beanies, and finally after many years of griping, it's happened. Kids will love 'em, they look good, and they have character goddammit. Why other tinpot local clubs could have these things and we couldn't I never found out, and now I don't even want to find out. They cost $25, and five of those dollarydoos end up going to the South Melbourne Powerchair team. It's several levels of win.

Don't you know who I am? 2019 edition
Yet another marker of a season that's almost here.
It's all standard procedure these days, a long way from the days of being told that what I did was entertaining, but not important enough to have a media pass. I never take it for granted though.

Public Transport guide
I added details for Paisley Park and Frank Holohan Soccer Complex to the guide, not that anyone cares, and not that anyone will bother, possibly not even me for Frank Holohan because it is such an insane trip.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Notes from the 2018 AGM

Another year, another overdue AGM.

Held in the social club on Thursday night, this one kicked off to a poor-to-middling turnout, depending on your point of view of 30-40 attendees. But since our quorum is apparently a mere 20 members for a meeting to be valid, we were in no danger of not having it go ahead.

This was president Leo Athanasakis' last AGM as president. During the meeting, he officially handed over the reigns over to Nick Maikousis. Gabrielle Giuliano is the new vice-president, and there were some new board members who will join the board following the AGM.

Bill Papastergiadis is chairman now, and unlike previous board members holding that role in recent years, he attempted and largely succeeded in ruling the evening with an iron fist. More on that later.

Of the two AGMs to be held on the night. the South Melbourne Hellas AGM was first, as is customary; and is also custom for these AGM reports, I will not report on everything as it happened, but rather group the varying matters by theme.

Financials
Taking into account that the data presented is now seven months out of date, our financial position seemed reasonably steady, but keep in mind that I'm no accountant. The club had a turnover of over $2 million, up from $1.8 million from the previous financial year. It was the first time the club's financial turnover has gone over $2 million since the NSL.

The club made a small surplus of about $10,000. The club claims that its debts have been reduced, and that it is making an effort to eradicate those debts as quickly as possible. Although there was an overall reduction in our debt levels, there was an increase in director loans. When it was asked from the floor whether these director loans would attract interest, the answer was 'no'. When I asked, only half-jokingly, whether there were actual paper contracts to make sure of this - to avoid a repeat of the Toumbourou affair from a few years ago - the answer was 'yes'.

The club earned about $110,000 from the Sydney FC FFA Cup game from 2017. It was noted that our former major sponsor, Luvarc - whose current operating state seems a bit iffy to this observer - does owe us money, and that we are seeking to recoup the owed monies.

The club's ongoing enterprise as a provider of school programs is providing what seems like a steady stream of income; in effect, we are diversifying the business, functioning in part as an education and training provider.

There was little discussion that I can recall - or at any rate, discussion that ended up in my notes - about other sources of income, including the use of the social club and futsal court. This was a bit strange, considering the outsourcing of the social and futsal court to an outside operator who was there on the night, as well as the hiring of the futsal court to the taekwondo people who've been using it for their elite training purposes, and who were again there later in the evening. Perhaps this will count for more in the next AGM.

In terms of our ongoing government stipend, there are eleven years left of the current funding arrangement, with approximately $2.5 million due to us at the present rate - keep in mind though, that the stipend is attached to CPI, and thus it will increase over the remainder of that time. It is worth noting - as was clarified by the board in response to a question from the floor -  that our Lakeside lease period is separate from our government income period. The stipend is counted as having begun before the lease agreement was put in place.

When the funding agreement comes to an end in eleven years, there will be the opportunity to renegotiate a new funding agreement, or to seek alternative pathways which were a little unclear to me in how they would operate - something about going to market. The fact that there was the possibility of this funding arrangement continuing was news to me, as I'd assumed that once the initial funding period was over, that would be it.

Governance
As noted earlier, this was Leo Athanasakis' last AGM as president before stepping down. There had been some suggestion among members of the hoi polloi that Athanasakis may have sought to remain on the board, but this is apparently not the case.

Tass Roufos and Peter Kokotis have joined the board. Roufos' company, Commercial and General, will be the club's major sponsor this season. It was also noted that Roufos' strength will be in networking and government liaison work. Peter Kokotis, a former general manager of the club, will be the (senior men's?) football director. In seeking clarification on an earlier press release on the matter, it was made clear that Kokotis is a director, and not an employee of the club.

Even if it was not explicitly stated on the night, much of what happened with regards to the relevant board changes seemed to be an attempt to show that an orderly transition of power had occurred between Leo and his successor. Even more subtly, there was an attempt to emphasise matters of culture and professionalism.

To that end, it was admitted that while on this occasion a late AGM was unavoidable - though why it was unavoidable was not explained - the board will be renewing efforts to hold AGMs in a more timely fashion. This was just one of a range of procedural matters of concern to some members; communication with members was another one, especially with regards to the lengths to which the club does (or doesn't) go in order to inform members of an AGM.

Now admittedly mass mail-outs are expensive, especially when you have ongoing issues with databases - another problem which is going to be solved, or so it has been claimed, again. And they are also problematic when long absent life members (of which we have many) have not updated their postal details, and thus much of the mail-out gets sent back return to sender".

There was some movement in terms of staff, with some old faces back in media and/or merchandise. The club has also hired a new full-time administrative kind of person. Technical director Strati Xynas is also moving on soon, so we will need to find someone for that role as well.

The next AGM will coincide with elections. As usual, it will be interesting to see if anything happens on this front; it usually doesn't.

Women's
Gabrielle Giuliano once again presented the women's report. Giuliano noted that while overall the women's wing of the club had done well in producing talent both for external sources and internally, the results of the various teams could've been better, and she set the very lofty ambition of wanting to win everything available in 2019. Giuliano also noted that the 'one club' process was still ongoing, as matters such as assets and such still had to be dealt with.

Perhaps most curiously, after a couple of years of taking a backseat during AGMs, Gabby put forward an unusually frank and forthright statement asking for respect for board members (and vice-versa), and that there needed to be a raising of behavioural standards across the board at the club; again, hinting towards the broader cultural change the board is seeking to implement. This statement was also coupled with a call-out for more volunteers from the members.

Youth
Andrew Mesourouni gave this presentation, which was just about his only contribution to the night's proceedings. This was unusual, as Andrew usually has a bit more to say on a variety of matters at an AGM.

The news that Mike Valkanis was working with us from overseas was a bit of a surprise when it was announced last year; at Thursday's meeting it was revealed that Valkanis approached us about working with him. There was some discussion about potentially facilitating the move of talented boys through Valkanis' Dutch connections. I wait to see what this will look like.

As usual, there was a reiteration of the standard desire and/or aim of having players coming through from our juniors to our the seniors, which we have historically not been good at.

Senior men's team
The board was upfront with the fact that it had chased John Anastasiadis hard for the senior men's coaching gig, and that Con Tangalakis was a gentleman in how he conducted himself during that time. Tangalakis will be on a three year deal with bonuses and renewal of his contract to be judged annually, based on predetermined KPIs.

Player wage costs will come down, but apparently that was not a priority when making our signings for 2019. Wage creep and bonuses had meant that the cost of the former squad crept up over a number of years; in some ways, this new squad is an attempt (again) at a refresh - new, younger talent, but also ridding ourselves of a player culture that had suffered significant deterioration. To emphasise again the attempt at a cultural change off field and on, it was noted that part of our recruitment was on players "of good character with good habits".

Another key word with regards to the senior squad was that it was going to be 'competitive'. When asked for a more explicit expectation - specifically whether the aim was to make finals - the answer was 'yes'.

Other observations
The two meetings went for about an hour and a half in total. The first meeting started only a little late, and the second meeting started before its listed start time of 8:00pm. We were more or less done by 7:45pm. I can't remember the last time that South Melbourne AGMs were over so quickly - there often even used to be an intermission for a smoke break, and the combined SMH and SMFC meetings could take three or more hours to complete.

Much of this was down to the control exerted over the meeting by chairman Bill Papastergiadis. Where in the past questions, comments, and comments posing as questions would fly freely from the floor, this time much of this phenomenon was nipped in the bud. This was done via calls to adhere to due process - in this case, there being no formal "other business of which due notice shall have been given".

While the chairman did acquiesce to a degree to allow some questioning, it's a signal to members of the club that they will need to be more organised and prepared to deal with a board that, at least on face-value, will seek to adhere more closely to "the rules". While woefully unprepared myself for such a shift in approach from the board, I was a bit surprised that members who were involved in off-site supporter meetings last year didn't have anything prepared for these AGMs.

That lack of preparation was reflective of a sort of defeated, lacklustre mood in the room on Thursday night. While some of the usual suspects did their thing, asking some good questions about governance, financials, and member communications, the feeling in the room was a largely subdued one. A disinterested and disillusioned membership is a not a good thing, and one of the key tasks for the revamped board will be to find ways to energise the membership base.

Things left largely unsaid
There was very little said about the A-League bid, except for two things. First, that the club would maintain a commitment to participation in a summer competition, whatever that means. Second, that Ross Pelligra - the would be major private investor of a South Melbourne A-League bid - had misspoken when he said in a recent interview that the club would be re-branded for acceptance into the A-League.

There was no discussion about plans for celebrating the club's 60th anniversary. There was little discussion about last year's issues with the senior men's team, apart from subtle references about culture. A question about what the difference was between a "director" and a "board member" - apparently everyone on the board is a director, when in the past that wasn't always the case - highlighted that even very basic elements of the club's organisation need to be clarified, especially if it has legal and regulatory ramifications.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Friendly result - Brunswick City 2 South Melbourne 5

I trundled out to Brunswick West today. Bloody hot. Not sure of the sensibleness of playing matches in the middle of the day with such heat. Anyway, defensively very messy again, but going forward we were a lot better. Brunswick City missed a ton of very gettable chances throughout the game.

I suspect that the teams being out on Wednesday nights are a little stronger than the ones on Saturday afternoons, if for no other reason than the fact that Nikola Roganovic is in goals in the midweek games. There's not a lot of time left for Con Tangalakis to sort out his preferred starting eleven and formation.

I was asked a few times today to put forward what my starting eleven would be, and I don't know if it's fair to do so based on me seeing so few games during this pre-season... but I'm thinking some variant of 
Roganovic / Norton - Adams - Marshall - Djiba / Gage, Schroen, Sylaidos / Pep Marafioti, Krousoratis, Gio Marafioti
might be we close to what we end up with. Minopoulos will be off the bench, and that's fine. Konstantindis hasn't been fully involved with this pre-season, I'm not sold on Lambropoulos, and who knows what the coaches will decide in terms of how they'll use Bereveskos and Stratomitros, let alone George Howard who played in central defence today.

Members night this Wednesday
This coming Wednesday it looks like there will be a members/membership night in the social club, where our supporters have been invited to come down to the club to purchase and collect memberships. Not sure if there will be any merch available, but here's hoping. 

Apart from coming down and collecting a membership before our first home game, it's also a good chance to road test the food on offer in the social club as well - I had a burger the other night, and while no world beater, it was more than passable, and a definite step up from last year's offering.

Keep an eye on the club's social media for more on this.

Everyone is off to Adelaide
Or so it seems - senior men, senior women, and all of our NPL junior teams are apparently travelling to Adelaide to play against various opponents as part of pre-season. The senior men will be taking on West Adelaide, the senior women I think Adelaide City and another team. This seems like a very interesting enterprise to send basically the whole club interstate, in some ways echoing the intent of AAFC's interstate junior tournament proposal from last year.

2019 SMFC senior squad roster as of 2/02/2019
Thank you to my Twitter friends for letting me know where Christos Intzidis ended up. I've seen Iqi Jawadi's name attached to Dandy City in some form. Whoever the English striker was who trialled with us in late 2018, he's almost certainly gone.


So what we have then, barring some massive surprise in the next two weeks, is basically what you see below. with most if not all of the players listed under the "seen hanging around pre-season training" list likely to be made senior South players.

It is also possible that the injured Alastair Bray could be ready by round one based on stuff I heard today, but we'll have to see on that.

As to why the club hasn't announced official signings with a bit more frequency... I'm not too sure. Apparently we'll be well under our player points-cap, even without using points from Matthew Millar's move to Central Coast, so there's room to move if we do decide on a surprise late notice marquee type signing. 

Signed

  • Dean Bereveskos (Bonnyrigg White Eagles) 
  • Ethan Gage (Bentleigh Greens)
  • Kristian Konstantinidis (signed until end of 2019) 
  • Nick Krousoratis (Green Gully)
  • Perry Lambropoulos (Port Melbourne) 
  • Brad Norton (signed until end of 2019) 
  • Kostas Stratomitros (Oakleigh Cannons)
  • Gerrie Sylaidos (Northcote) 
Seen hanging around pre-season training
  • Luke Adams 
  • Manny Aguek 
  • Ben Djiba
  • George Howard 
  • Amir Jashari
  • Giordano Marafioti 
  • Giuseppe Marafioti 
  • Jake Marshall
  • Andrew Mesorouni
  • Leigh Minopoulos 
  • Will Orford
  • Nikola Roganovic
  • Marcus Schroen 
  • Melbourne Heart Ball Hog
  • Zack/ch Bates?
  • "Calvin"

Injured
  • Alastair Bray 
Out
  • Rory Brian (Preston) 
  • Matthew Foschini (Oakleigh) 
  • Josh Hodes (Oakleigh?) 
  • Christos Intzidis (FK Palanka, Lithuania) 
  • Milos Lujic (Oakleigh) 
  • Oliver Minatel (Canada) 
  • Ndumba Makeche (Penang FA) 
  • Tim Mala (North Sunshine)
Unknown / MIA / Assumed dead from 2018
  • Giorgi Zarbos

Friday, 1 February 2019

Friendly vs Brunswick City tomorrow

At Brunswick City's Dunstan Reserve, under 20s kickoff at 11am, seniors at 1pm. Make sure to wear sunscreen.