Thursday, 28 November 2019

Late-November mutterings to oneself

AGM news
No sign of a South Melbourne AGM on the horizon, although there's enough time yet to sneak one in before Christmas. Someone said on social media that news of this would come soon. It might.

2020 fixture released
Not too long ago the clubs sat down at Football Victoria HQ to work on the fixture for next season, and it's already out. Remember when we used to have to wait until a much later date than this to see the fixture? How times changed the last few seasons.

There are three surprises for the senior men's fixture. The first very pleasing surprise is that we've managed to score two home games to start the season. Can you believe it? It's been several years now of, at best, being able to squeeze just one home game in at Lakeside, before the grand prix sees us wandering across Melbourne for a few weeks. So, I think most of us will be happy to get a couple of games of summer soccer at Lakeside under our belts before the point in the season where everyone stops caring.

(though I have seen one complaint about the round 1 game being scheduled in Valentine's Day).

The other surprise is a far bigger change. As the seasons have rolled on in the top couple of Victorian divisions, we'd become a rare breed of club - one that would play almost all of its home games on Sunday afternoons. Out of what might be called the old guard of important enough ethnic teams, only a handful had held onto that tradition with any sort of consistency (us, St Albans, Preston), and in recent years even Heidelberg and the Knights had moved to other days.

Without even taking into account the fact that more and more clubs right through the divisions have been moving games to Friday or Saturday nights when they have the lights for it, last year we were the only team of the NPL1's 14 teams to play on Sundays. In 2020 this changes, as the club will play just one home game on a Sunday, the round 2 match against Eastern Lions.

The rest of our home games will be split between Friday nights and an assortment of Saturday time slots. The Friday night games will be kicking off at the early-ish time of 7:30, which must mean that Football Victoria has relaxed its rules about how early games can start on Fridays. I was under the assumption that previously 8:00 was the earliest allowable kickoff time for Fridays, with special dispensation given to Knights to begin at 7:45.

It's also worth mentioning Knights in this discussion because they've been the pioneers of instituting Friday night kickoffs at the "normal" kickoff of sometime before 8:15/8:30, by dispensing with the under 20s curtain raiser, and moving said reserves game to a different day. It looks like a couple of other clubs are also looking to earlier Friday night kickoffs, including Port Melbourne and Green Gully - the latter seemingly going back to Friday nights in 2020 from Saturday afternoons in 2019 from Friday nights in 2020.

The hidden 'surprise' in all this is what will happen to the under 20s games. Well apart from being played on a separate day from the seniors, it appears that not only will the under 20s games not be played at Lakeside, they won't even be played in the Albert Park area. Rather, they will play the majority of their games out of the Darebin International Sports Complex. The exception to those games scheduled at Darebin are a couple of home 20s fixtures scheduled after the seniors game, taking a leaf out of Hume's book.

I suspect that this move is in part a cost-cutting exercise - the cost of fielding two senior teams (men's and women's) and their respective reserve teams across multiple days at Lakeside just not being financially worthwhile, despite the hope that such a move would have seen us extend our footprint at Lakeside across more of the calendar. As for why Darebin and not our grounds in Albert Park, I guess it's got to do with a preference with natural grass over a synthetic pitch?

It's not a great look in terms of the ongoing stability of our presence at Lakeside. A 40 year lease is fine and all, but if having to traipse across Melbourne to host regular season fixtures seems a bit... off. On the one hand it's a strength to have multiple options in terms of grounds, including Lakeside, Albert Park, and Caulfield, but we also ended up having games at Darebin last year (women's and probably some men's 20s), Knox (women's), and that senior men's game at Northcote against Gully.

I hope that at least we are able to cut down on the number of games that the women have to play at Knox, and that the women's senior team gets to play all of its home matches at Lakeside. The NPLW fixture isn't out yet, but it wouldn't be a stretch to imagine that given the men's under 20s are being farmed out to Darebin, that we could see a few more men's/women's double headers on our Saturday fixtures.

(I also wonder if we could see more youth gala days at Lakeside now that Sundays at the ground have been vacated by the seniors...)

The other thing to think about, especially with the Friday night games, is whether the social club will be able to cope with dinner service. Our crowds on Sundays this year were noticeably poorer than usual. A combination of having only occasionally good results, the colder than usual weather, the arrival of the live streams, and an increase in all-round battle fatigue all seemed to contribute to an obvious erosion in our attendances. Yet even with that, food service for those who didn't turn up a couple of hours before the game was often notoriously slow. Now that the club is moving half its games to Friday nights, you assume people will be turning up to games hungry - and you just hope that the social club's food service operation works a bit better than it has for the last three seasons since we reopened the social club.

I suppose we should at least acknowledge that the club is trying to do something on the fixturing front. If Sundays no longer work for us for all sorts of reasons, than why not at least try and not succeed on a different day? The last time we had any noticeable change to our normal home game days was in one of the later Chris Taylor seasons, where we played a handful of games on Friday nights for the ostensible sake of player recovery during the congested mid-season period where the midweek FFA Cup games came into play. This change seems to come from an altogether differet place.

Is this it? Probably.
Only a couple of squad changes have occurred since the last time we spoke, and one was not even really a change. Kristian Konstantinidis was already out the door, but now he also has a new destination - which is really an old destination - in Northcote City. The other change is the departure of Will Orford to Western Pride in his home state of Queensland. I guess with the way Orford's 2018 season ended that some of us would've expected to have seen a little more of him in the senior team in 2019. That didn't happen, and yet I'm still sad to see him go.

The other thing is - and I feel this is an observation worth making - is that assuming that we have 20 odd players signed up already, that we're not likely to be seeing a lot of trialist types during the upcoming pre-season period.

2020 SMFC senior squad roster as of 16/11/2019
  • Daniel Clark
  • Lirim Elmazi
  • Stephen Folan
  • Chris Irwin
  • Amadu Koroma
  • Perry Lambropoulos
  • Matthew Loutrakis
  • Jake Marshall
  • Josh Meaker
  • Brad Norton
  • Luke Pavlou
  • Harrison Sawyer
  • Marcus Schroen
  • Gerrie Sylaidos
  • Giorgi Zarbos
Played for us in 2019, but now on the payroll in another guise
  • Luke Adams
Previously signed until the end of 2020 - or even beyond - but you know how these things can go
  • Melvin Becket
  • Josh Dorron
  • Nick Krousoratis 
  • Peter Skapetis
Reputedly posting on Instagram about getting ready for 2020, but who knows for what club
  • Nikola Roganovic
Played with us at the end of 2019 but who knows about next year
  • Keenan Gibson
  • Manny Aguek
  • Ben Djiba
  • Amir Jashari
  • Zac Bates
'They' say that he's not coming back for whatever reason
  • Kostas Stratimitros
On the proverbial knife's edge 
  • Pep Marafioti
Has he even been in Australia since early in the 2019 season?
  • Andrew Mesourouni
Last time anything was heard from him, he was exploring options in India
  • Billy Konstantinidis
  • Tom Aulton (Brisbane Olympic)
  • George Gerondaras (Kingston)
  • Kristian Konstantinidis (Northcote)
  • Leigh Minopoulos (retired)
  • Will Orford (Western Pride)

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