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 have 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, 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 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 a 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 to 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 also 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, its 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 incapacitate 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 game continued being a free-flowing affair, with both sides squandering chances. Magic - who have apparently just had a major backer of theirs announce 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

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Circus - Oakleigh Cannons 4 South Melbourne 1

I managed to overcome the ordeal of a dodgy public information system on the train to get off at the right station - though the confusion interrupted my reading of Steve Kilbey's autobiography, though I have little interest in The Church - and head to Jack Edwards early enough to watch not much of the under 20s game, even though I could've watched most of it. Instead the time was spent having deep and meaningful discussions about life and all that it entails.

That, and having a customary pre-game chat with former South and now Oakleigh assistant coach Chris Marshall, discussing football of all things, and what had transpired over the past couple of seasons.

As for the game itself, the big question was which South would turn up? The good one, the mediocre one, or the terrible one? All three as it turned out. You can read about that in appropriate depth on Luke's blog. Or you can do a google search and try and find his poem about schnitzel.

But let's be fair - the way Oakleigh has been performing for the past three and a half months, no matter how well we played, we probably wouldn't have been able to match them. Three a half months... think back to that time - a time when both ourselves and Oakleigh were playing abysmal football, and Oaks managed to win what was pound-for-pound one of the worst games of football I've ever seen.

At any level. In any code.

We started with Josh Dorron in goals, because Nikola Roganovic had accrued five yellows. Pretty soon Dorron was being forced to make save after save - sometimes in the same sequence of play - and the signs looked ominous for us. That we actually sort of settled and won a maybe dubious penalty - our first for the season, and which we scored from! - didn't really make things any less ominous.

Credit to Bates though. Despite his dodgy hamstrings, which are always on the verge of snapping into oblivion, probably no one else could've run fast enough to get to that ball and win that penalty.

Oh, and credit to Marcus Schroen for putting away the penalty. We'll remember it fondly, if only because who knows when we'll get our next spot kick, let alone score from one?

But the good times weren't going to last forever, with Oakleigh equalising from a sequence of play involving a shot off the crossbar and an easy tuck away that I won't be revisiting on the highlights package. Apologies to George who compiles the highlights, and desperately needs views on the club's YouTube channel so the club can hypothetically promote its metrics to sponsors, but this year I'm in mid-1990s Paul Mavroudis the Collingwood fan mode, where I avoid Saturday replays if the Pies had lost. And back then, it happened a lot.

If memory serves me correct, Oakleigh had an offside goal disallowed, and forced several more good saves from Dorron in the first half. For our part, we still looked lively, at least on the counter. Once we got to the dangerous areas of the ground, things tended to fall apart, but it was nice to get that far.

And if Pep Marafioti's well-guided header had gotten past John Honos late in the first half, well, it provided a case of what might have been.

Nah. We probably still would've lost.

In the end, the what-ifs and might-have-beens were settled the old-fashioned way - by what actually happened on the field. And the second half from our lads was not good, while Oakleigh maintained their relatively (proportionally?) high standard of play.

It finished 4-1 - and not 5-1 as someone in the nearby crowd had thought, but I forgive them - but it could've been so many more for them, and maybe one more for us. Two of the goals we conceded were carbon copies (or at least rough ad libbed short term memory copies) of each other, crosses headed down and slammed home. The fourth goal was some dodgy keeping from Josh Dorron, who probably scuppered any chance he had of ever being considered a permanent first choice keeper in NPL Victoria from 2020 onward.

That's a slightly harsh call, since he'd pulled out a number of excellent saves on the night, but why should Josh avoid being made a scapegoat? Pretty much everyone else of even half note had copped it. Perry Lambropoulos, Marcus Schroen, Pep and Gio Marafioti, Nick Krousoratis, Jake Marshall, Kristian Konstantinidis, Billy Konstantinidis, and even Josh's main rival for the goalkeeping spot, Nikola Roganovic.

The presence of Milos Lujic made the final 15 minutes of a game that
 was cooked, slightly amusing for a gaggle of fools, this reporter included.
Photo: Luke Radziminski.
Speaking of scapegoats, former champion of the club and scapegoat for some of what happened last year (for the five people at the club who don't put the entire blame on the board and Sasa Kolman) Milos Lujic made an appearance off the bench for Oaks, after which he was cheered out of respect for being a South legend, and then absurdly cheered upon by a section of Clarendon Corner encouraging him to score, and mock abusing our defenders for denying him a goal.

Well, some found it funny. Others saw it as a more of a last straw, seeing nothing noble or amusing in the self-loathing on display. They probably prefer their self-loathing to be directed inward perhaps, or maybe even just want straight up loathing directed toward them by others. Hey, it takes all sorts.

Some people are saying there's a lot of difficult decisions to be made during the off-season, but is it really so? As long as we're comparatively skint (either because we're broke or saving pennies for the alleged second division), the kind of player we'll be able to attract is not likely to be a game changing player. With the instability on the coaching front over the past two years, it's unlikely as well that we'll be able to get a "name" coach, or even a promising up and comer, so chances are we'll probably end up with Esteban Quintas for another season not because he's the best candidate for the job, but only because we've already got him.

That instability goes for the backroom machinations as well - a new technical director, a shuffling of the deck chairs in terms of who's responsible for the football department. The board promised us a competitive team, and at times - even plenty of times, if I'm being fair - the team was competitive. Just not often enough, and certainly not for long enough in most games. The board also said that the aim was finals, and from a finals perspective, the last two games are now officially a wash for us. Already a long shot, our loss on Friday night put paid to our chances of making an unrealistic and frankly undeserved tilt at the title. What's more, other results over the weekend meant that the top six is locked in - no one can get in or out, with only final positions up for grabs.

All we've got left is some experimenting with youngsters, and denying the Bergers what I still call the minor premiership.

Next game
This week is a Dockerty Cup and designated catch up weekend, and thus there is no senior men's fixture on this week. We're back at home not this Sunday, but the one after, against fellow 2019 also-ran Altona Magic.

In the meantime, our senior women have an important game against Heidelberg away this Sunday afternoon at Olympic Village.

As for me, I'm going to spend the week - or portions of it - at the film festival.

So, er, what now for the juniors?
A little while back, we engaged the services of former South player Michael Valkanis - who was an assistant to John Van ’t Schip at PEC Zwolle in the Netherlands - as a sort of distance education coach for our junior program. Now Van ’t Schip is the Greek national men's team coach, and it appears as if Valkanis will follow him there. I don't know if part of the club's arrangements with Valkanis was meant to see us access some of the know-how at Zwolle or not, and if, whether that was actually followed through with.

Still, you'd like to think that a national team job would generally incorporate a lower day-to-day workload, so would this mean Mike could do more work with our kids? I don't know.

Media news
Since the resignation of previous Football Victoria media and communications guy Teo Pellizerri earlier this year, FV has outsourced its media to a company run by Michael Zappone and some other bloke, with news yet to come about what FV has planned for next year on whether the outsourcing will continue.

But one part of next year's local media landscape has been revealed, with Football Victoria sending out a memo to all NPL clubs informing them that they'll be charged a $5,000 levy for marketing and promotion in 2020. For that cost, clubs will receive:
  • a pre-season photo-shoot (team and individual players), for clubs to use in their own marketing.
  • access to Football Victoria's media studio for podcast and content production.
  • access to a central club portal for video footage.
  • the chance for clubs to include their own advertising on live streaming (up to 10% of allocated advertising banners).
  • match day photography for each club, at least once per season.
  • written match reports and previews.
In and of itself, such a move is not necessarily a bad thing. What it is, however, is a realignment of the nature of what is expected of NPL clubs. Previously, there was a degree of autonomy and self-reliance expected of teams - it's your club, and if you don't promote it to the fullest extent of your capabilities, that was on you. Thus the quality of what clubs were able to produce varied significantly, not just because of cost, but because of the lack of will and organisation.

Teams that wanted to spend more, or who had the organisational and/or volunteer capacity to do so, tended to do better work. Those that didn't, often did nothing at all. I suppose then, that the problem with this initiative - even though I would say its intent is good - is how much value will the clubs get back? For clubs who have already invested in equipment and people over a number of years to do this stuff for them, the benefits seem likely to be modest at best.

For those clubs who have struggled with getting volunteers to do this stuff, or who have rarely bothered to make an effort, will they all of a sudden become more likely to become media players? I'm not optimistic, especially as it concerns being able to make a return on this forced investment. As long time South media volunteer Skip Fulton notes:
Being in a competition where crowds are low for all sorts of reasons, and where most club income comes from junior fees and the largesse of wealthy club patrons - the latter of whom will never see a monetary return on their investment - it's almost like misreading the room on why someone sponsors a club in the first place.

As far as I'm concerned, more media and more coverage of Victorian soccer is not a bad thing. But the expectations around that - especially the implied notion that such increased media will increase sponsorship - is misguided. More media content under our current situation is good for historical and record keeping purposes, good for providing training and opportunities for young media hopefuls, and good for engaging (up to a point) extant audiences.

But revenue? Crowds are too small and too fragmented to be useful to potential non-traditional sponsors. Live streams do not have the commercial credibility of free-to-air broadcasts, especially when the quality of play is poor, the crowds low, and the atmosphere non-existent.

Other questions remain up in the air. Will NPL 2 and 3 (or whatever those league are going to be called) teams going to be slugged this levy as well, even though they will get less value? Will people providing services to FV - such as the live stream commentators - actually get paid for their efforts?

Skipping ahead to the fights
My interest in the rest of this league and pretty much all competitions below it, is cactus for 2019. The notable exception is the relegation battle that thank Christ we're not involved in anymore.

But even that relegation battle is barely engaging my interest. I tried watching moments of the Dandenong Thunder vs Pascoe Vale game, and got bored pretty quickly. Turns out that I would have been less bored had I popped in the approximately 74th minute mark, where a run of the mill foul and then a Pascoe Vale player kicking the ball - hard - into a prone opponent kicked off an on-field scuffle, which got on to the fence, and even made the cinematic leap into avant-garde film-making when the live stream camera was filming the Paco cameraman filming the violence; a cameraman by the way who had gone all Arnie Pie and wanted to make the news. At least he had the good grace to later apologise for getting involved.

Compared to that, the scuffle near the players' race - with pitch invader - at the Port vs Bergers game seemed almost telescopically quaint.

Final thought
Thanks to Johnny for the lift back to the city on Friday. You've been a champ on that front this year.