Saturday, 21 January 2017

Uneventful - Murray United 0 South Melbourne 2

Took the noon train up from Melbourne to Wodonga. Unless you like field after field and paddock after paddock, it's not necessarily the most scenically diverse route, though you get a handle on how flammable the Australian countryside is. Oh, and you get to go through the Albion freight corridor, which is appreciated by moderate gunzels like myself.

Spent about half the trip up re-reading Miles Vertigan's Life Kills, a novel about a plane flight with an easily distracted terrorist, two airhead hostesses, one studly pilot, one co-pilot who lacks a torso, a bunch of z-list celebs, and the increasingly menacing in flight entertainment system. Stream of consciousness, almost no punctuation, deeply cynical and occasionally sympathetic towards humanity, but more steadfast in its desire to discuss a civilisation in terminal decline.

And lest one thing that reading was all I did, I also struck up a conversation with some of my fellow passengers, about books of course. Yes, my main conversation buddy was mostly interested in popular fiction, but I managed to recommend some Australian literature he may enjoy: Kenneth Cook's Wake In Fright, Anson Cameron's The Last Pulse, and Barbara Baynton's short stories. He reminded me to take a gander at that Peter Fitzsimons Batavia book.

Arrived in Wodonga just before four in the afternoon, and with a couple of other South buddies staying at the same motel discussed the dive qualities of this motel, but I have to say at least the wifi is good, and if you have an appreciation for 1970s tiling, this place is not so bad. Wodonga seems to shut down after 5:00PM on a Friday, and driving around it can make it seem like a bit of a ghost town. I think we crossed over to the New South Wales side of the border at one point, but our stay there didn't last very long.

We eventually killed enough time doing other things so that we rocked up to Murray United's La Trobe University base of operations, a spartan but neat facility of about three or four grounds shared with local league side Wodonga Diamonds. There are some metal benches adjacent to the basic pavilion, but otherwise no elevation around the rest of the perimeter. Food was humble fare, being snags and burgers on white bread, but no complaints from me on that front apart from the Valkanis canteen like waiting time.

The surface was adjudged to be a bit spongy, but it looked green and will be better than a lot of places we end up playing at this year, especially once the season gets into winter. It was deceptively windy as well, and then the temperature dropped a bit as well. But again, nothing our squad won't have to deal with on a weekly basis when the season proper comes around.

Two games in two days means that we have to nurse the squad through a tight fixture window. This was also our first 45 minute halves match of the 2017 pre-season, but I think we handled it well. Indeed, I think we looked fitter than Murray United, even though their season starts earlier than ours. But then again, I think given the resources and the likely robust fight for spots at our disposal, this should be the case regardless

We dominated the fixture, even with a makeshift/unfamiliar forward line, with Milo Lujic, just back from a short holiday, playing only towards the end of the game. No Milos does mean at least learning to play a different way, a bit more mobile and flexible perhaps. The only letdown overall was not having put away a few more chances - though hitting the woodwork twice also conspired to deny us a bigger goal tally. Keep an eye out for Carl 'Pidge' Piergianni to be a constant aerial threat from set pieces this year - provided we can supply the necessary delivery, of course.

Gavin De Niese gave us the lead during the first half, I think some kind of curling shot or cross eluding everyone and finding its way into the back of the net. He'll be a useful pickup should we follow through and make the signing. Leigh Minopoulos sealed the result in the generally less interesting and more frustrating second half, finishing off a nice sequence of play with an outside of the foot flick finish from a tight angle.

Murray United gave it a go, but only seemed to trouble us in any meaningful way towards the end, and even then, not too much - the corner count was heavily lopsided in our favour, if that counts for anything. I don't think they'll be one of the favourites for promotion to NPL, but the overall package they provide to the NPL project is worthwhile and worth persisting with. They could do with some better lighting for night games though. The crowd was decent enough, a couple of hundred people, maybe a little more. Not too many South fans, though some may make the trip up today. This kind of thing is really more for the players though.

After the game we drove around looking for some place to eat at, found a mediocre pizza joint, and then ended up back at the motel drinking Seagram's gin and tonics for those who could tolerate tonic water while watching the closing stages of a BBL fixture, and then channel surfing through the local television offerings which for some reason didn't have any of the SBS channels working.
Today at the same venue, in an earlier time slot and in expected to be warmer conditions, we'll be playing Canberra Olympic, who everyone seems to expect to be a tougher opponent. Until that moment, we'll have to find something to do to kill time. I have some ideas.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Trademark changes of heart - Pascoe Vale 2 South Melbourne 6

I said I wasn't going to Wodonga for South's friendlies against Murray United
and Canberra Olympic, but I've had one of my trademark changes of heart,
and I plan to be present for both matches. Yes, I am taking the train up there.
A rainbow lorikeet with a broken wing fell out of a tree and onto the field. It was ushered away from the playing arena by a diligent South fan, and the lorikeet managed to climb up a tree and toward relative safety.

There was a minute's silence observed before the kickoff, but I was not sure who it was for.

Another 3x30 minute match, but unusually for a pre-season hit-out there was a full set of officials.

Overall a much more fluent demonstration of football than we've seen throughout the pre-season so far - or maybe our tidy finishing created the illusion of fluency?

One might be concerned with the way we conceded two quick goals to trail 2-1, but we also spurned chances and saw players sometimes attempt to do things on the lower percentage side of things, which you can do in pre-season but probably wouldn't like to do during the real stuff.

On the way back, one train connection worked better than another. So it goes.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Home goal! South Melbourne 1 Hume City 0

Since it appears that people are going up to Wodonga in order to have fun,
and since I am, in this case, staunchly anti-fun - if you catch my drift -
I'll be giving that trip a miss. I might go and watch the Aces instead,
or watch the restoration of Woody Allen's Manhattan at ACMI.
A Matthew Millar goal was the nominal difference in this game of three by thirty minute periods - you're welcome Dodgy Asian Betting people. It was, as pre-season so often is, a bit hard on the eye, but not as bad as you can get in these kinds of things.

There was a decent turnout last night, and even a bit of passion for pre-season - the referee being made aware by South fans that they did not agree with what looked like an obvious push in the back by a Hume player.

We looked OK I guess, though who can know for sure? My excuse this time for not knowing what was going on was the two teams conspiring to wear closely matching strips - a navy blue affair for South, a black backed affair for Hume.

No Milos Lujic who is in Bali or something - hopefully he didn't fly with Tiger - but otherwise there was a fair diversity of players used, including new and prospective ones. While our finishing let us down, it was nice to have those chances available.

Reassuringly, our set pieces are still rubbish.

I mention that last fact just in case someone, whether of any particular importance or not, wants to know what's wrong with the team, based in some part on what I remember annoying me the most, or rather perhaps the last thing I remember annoying me.

Next game
Saturday morning (11:00AM) at Hosken Reserve against Pascoe Vale.

Charity Shield news
It will be at Kingston Heath again. Now as for the date, well, the brochure says Thursday February 2nd, but the website says Friday February 2nd. I'm sure they'll sort it out soon enough.

Community TV news
Word on the street seems to be that SMFC TV will no longer be the pay television distributed Aurora community television service. We'll wait for something more solid before writing the eulogy.

Arrivals and departures
Luke Adams has signed up for 2017, as has Leigh Minopoulos. Meanwhile the mystery UK centre back has been settled, with one Carl Piergianni making his pre-season adebut and subsequently being signed, He is most recently of Boston United, which has already made all two of our Boston United fans very happy. Though if it turns out like the last Boston United player we had - Tom Matthews - it may still end up in tears yet.

From the remainder of the 2016 squad, still up in the air (at least nominally) are the fates of Andy Kecojevic and maybe Stephen Hatzikostas as well considering that during the pre-season he has once again been riding his motorcycle trying to catch the sunset or search for the Lost City of Gold or something

As for the rumours of whatever it is Andy Brennan is going to do now that he's been released by Newcastle Jets, I don't have any information on that.

As per last time, the following players are known to be contracted for next season.

    Players who have left

    Sunday, 8 January 2017

    Meandering thoughts on the 2017 Victorian soccer media landscape

    FFV has been circulating within certain circles its 2017 media strategy video. That it has released this publicly means there is the chance for the general public to make comment on FFV's media strategy, and that includes members of the independent and most fringe media such as South of the Border.

    I'm not going to recount everything mentioned in the video (which is indexed, so you can easily skip ahead to more interesting segments), but rather I'd like to present some scatter-shot thoughts about the Victorian soccer media landscape as it appears in 2017.

    To start with - if there has been one area in which FFV media efforts have struggled over the years, it has been in continuity. Limiting that concept of continuity to merely a lack of continuity of strategy is insufficient - the lack of continuity within the ranks of the media and communications departments has meant that even good initiatives have always been on the verge of imminent collapse because of personnel changes at FFV.

    That's both understandable and unavoidable to an extent within an entity such as FFV. As a state organisation, whose constituencies are based mostly around participation rather than spectatorship - and with limited financial resources allocated to promoting its spectator tangent - there's really only so much that can be done.

    Those limited resources in terms of funds and staffing at FFV are true for whomever is the media coordinator. Being second tier also means that its often seen as a stepping stone rather than an end in itself, which is understandable for young and passionate soccer people looking to get their foot in the door in the sports media industry.

    Having said that, the attitude towards Victorian soccer and its media arms from those in FFV's media roles is as important as anything else in terms of what success may come on the media front. Do those in the role love and/or understand the game as it exists in Victoria? Do they understand the passion of those who love the game and seek to cover it in the media?

    As an example of previous efforts I would consider below par: it took me three years before I had the courage and self-esteem to apply for an FFV media pass for my work on South of the Border. When I got given that media pass, I was over the moon, because even though this was and still is mainly a hobby and chance for me to muck around, it was validation that my work added something of value to Victorian soccer's media landscape.

    That media pass access continued for a bit, until another media person came in and decided that what South of the Border did wasn't important or worthwhile enough to get a media pass. When I asked why, just to get my head around what they were looking for (with a trace of self-entitlement, I must admit), I was told that while my blog was entertaining it was not necessary for me to have a media pass.

    The next year, my application was rejected again, because FFV's media reps said that if they gave every blog a media pass, they would have to give every blog a media pass, ie, thousands of them. Which was nonsense from even the practical sense that it was only me blogging week in, week out, let alone from the devaluing of the fringe parts of new media. But more importantly, it was evidence that those in FFV's media department had no sense of what was going on in the media landscape here.

    When Alen Delic came in, things changed for the better, and while it was sad for Victorian soccer that he moved on quickly up to FFA, at least you can say soccer didn't lose him, and that we ended up training and promoting someone from within the game's own ranks. Now with Teo Pellizzeri still being FFV's main media person from 2016 to 2017, one can be confident that a continuity of attitude will also remain.

    That doesn't mean that FFV, Teo and his offsiders have to like or endorse everything the Victorian soccer media does, but what was most reassuring is this group seems to get that we are all pulling in the same direction. When I picked up my media pass last year outside Kingston Heath before the Charity Shield, Teo was there to hand it to me, and he even knew my name! It's a long way from certain other experiences of older attitudes, where FFV's media people saw pretty much any media outside of the FFV bubble as inherently hostile.

    So seeing as how at present we have an engaged FFV media group, as well as one with some continuity of personnel and attitude, we should move on to discuss some of the specifics the video has brought up.

    In 2017 FFV will be looking to once again change its website (continuity be damned), this time with the goal of making it more tablet and especially mobile friendly, as people move away from desktop browsing, but also to make the website more about resources than news. Pellizzeri explains that this is down to how people engage with FFV's media avenues. So while there are very strong social media metrics - which is more news oriented - when it comes to the website itself, people tend to use that for resources - fixtures, documentation, regulations, etc.

    Within that revelation will be a bit of a blow to those of us who value such things as match reports, previews and news associated with the NPL especially, but the reality is that these things do not drive hits to FFV's website, much like artefact pieces do little to drive interest here. (for the record, what you people like on South of the Border the most tends to fall into what one would broadly call 'controversy'.)

    Now a blog like this or others like it don't need to worry about metrics, because metrics aren't our game. But FFV clearly needs to listen to its audience, and as much as someone like me will go through things like previews and match reports, it's not so important to most of the people who use FFV's media outlets. (more on what we lose on that front later though).

    Regarding the NPL itself, in the video FFV/Teo are at pains to emphasise the need to present a quality or premium product. In using the pejorative term 'park soccer', a challenge is set out to the NPL clubs as well as FFV itself: we can't expect others to take us and our premier competition seriously, if we ourselves do not take it seriously.

    (Though of course, one can easily point to clubs such as Nunawading, who in their own quest to do whatever it is they are doing, devalue the competition, albeit at a level of lower consequence than if they were in NPL 1.)

    In that sense, the framing of the competition as a package and an idea, and not just 26 rounds with 7 fixtures a week is worth noting. Being in the NPL means, whether licensees like it or not, being part of something bigger than themselves - after the A-League, they're the next step in promoting soccer as a whole in Victoria.

    Now we all know the difficulties of trying to overcome our deficiencies, many of them inherited from previous generations and soccer's place as a marginalised sport in this state. First among these factors is that some (many) venues aren't up to scratch. That's improving, but it will never get to the point we need or want it to be.

    We're also at the disadvantage, as noted repeatedly here, of being second tier, where spectator interest is very difficult to generate, competing as we are against so many other sports, but also against the limited amounts of leisure time available at people's disposal.

    But that doesn't mean clubs should go half-arsed in their bid to be more professional. Yes, FFV is responsible for promoting the product, but so are the clubs. If clubs take a half-arsed approach to match day presentation, they harm the competition as a whole, not just themselves.

    And that goes as much for the way the clubs present themselves to the wider public as anything else - and what's more, this is an area where clubs have some level of agency in the matter. Do they perform their media duties/requirements with the genuine sense that it's a worthwhile enterprise? Or do they do the bare minimum, because it's just another box to tick?

    Mark Boric noted in his own summary of this matter that the NPL structure threatens the validity and ability of NPL clubs to get volunteers, and that's true enough. It has become more difficult to establish a club culture at the higher levels of Victorian soccer, as opposed to one where people outside of the senior wing of a club feel like they're only paying to use the resources of an NPL club for their own child's benefit, and the rest of the club be damned.

    That kind of attitude obviously hurts the volunteer tradition, and with NPL clubs now being asked to have social media, and camera people, and all the rest of the media stuff, we end up in the situation where NPL clubs are just about obliged to pay for the services of people to run their media operations.

    And while that's sad on one front, there's a part of me which says, why shouldn't they hire someone to do these things? If these clubs can afford to be in the NPL, and pay the still large salaries of their squads (vis a vis the economic value they bring to the club and competition through the gate), they can afford to hire someone to film and edit video, maybe run and update a basic website and social media service.

    We can collectively choose to be run of the mill, and complain about everyone else ignoring us as a competition and as a sport - but the reality is that opportunities to get into the mainstream press are diminishing, as the mainstream press, especially print, has itself been backed into a corner. Relying even on suburban papers is a notion driven by nostalgia. I can't remember the last time I received a local paper, either here in Sunshine or where my folks have their shop in Altona North.

    (and I maintain also that community television is also a looming dead end, in the first place because Channel 31 is on its last legs, and in the second because the pay television model where the Aurora channel exists is also on borrowed time in my honest opinion)

    So what we do on the media front, we have to do better and, as importantly, with a measure of sincerity. Standards have to be raised every year. That has been happening of its own accord from some clubs, either from the noble sense of improving oneself for the simple sake of it, or from the less outwardly noble (but still emotionally effective) notion of jealousy - if 'that/rival' club is doing that kind of media, why aren't we, or why can't we?

    And on that front, I am glad to see FFV setting out higher standards for the filming of games. Better cameras, better positioning, better camera work. Actually following the play, and not being zoomed out a mile away. And no stupid doof doof music, with the emphasis instead being on the ambient crowd noise (though that can present its own problems).

    It is obviously difficult for some clubs, because their grounds are not ideal for filming, but complaints about who is going to pay for it miss the point. As I've noted earlier, if you want to act like boondocks clubs, go to the boondocks leagues. And as Pellizzeri noted in his video, what is being asked of as a minimum of NPL clubs in terms of their filming obligations still falls well short of what some NPL clubs are doing - thus we have the problem of sometimes significantly varying degrees of effort and quality. The fact that FFV is willing to provide advice and basic training means that there is one less excuse for clubs.

    None of this will be a panacea to poor crowds, especially deep in winter, but sometimes you've got to play the long game and set yourself up for the day when the opportunity actually arises. Thus FFV is putting the emphasis on 'big events' and opportunities to create high impact interest. That means live video streaming certain FFA Cup qualifiers, and important finals. It doesn't mean live video streaming an NPL match every week, which while noble in intent, does little more than provide a service to overseas gamblers. Tuning in to a weekly video stream has never been a phenomenon that's proven popular for Victorian soccer, nor does it really encourage people to go to games.

    And in the end, consistently entertaining and high quality footage will probably do more to engage audiences than some of the alternatives. For example, some people want a full fledged 25 minute programme ala the NSW premier league, but that's not generally how people watch videos online. You've really got to go full Big Bash League when putting video packages online - in our case, its got to be wall to wall goals and incident - and if people want to see all the bad moments where players sky one over the bar and into Albert Lake, they can come to a game and see it for themselves.

    So what one hopes to see come out of this is for starters, better quality footage, from every NPL club, every week. We need to see the media duties asked of clubs, even in their limited form, approached with sincerity rather than grudging obligation, And on the media front, an acknowledgment from FFV and its NPL clubs, that the independent soccer media which exists in this state wants nothing more than to pull in the same direction as everyone one else - and that is the benefit of the game as a whole.

    At the same time however
    Some of the tone of FFV's recent engagements on social media have been, shall we say, leaning a bit more towards the 'banter' side of the ledger. That's all well and good when everyone's having a laugh, but i can quickly come undone when someone stops laughing. Tα πολλά γέλια τελειώνουν στα κλάματα, as they say in the old country.

    You can also see Teo Pellizzeri's call to arms for FFV media types on the Corner Flag.

    Rise and fall of MFootball
    It looks like MFootball is on the brink of folding. Even though my preference was always for Corner Flag's style and content, that's still sad news because there's few enough media outlets covering Victorian soccer as it is. MFootball tried its hand at radio and video broadcasting in 2016, adding a much appreciated point of difference to its nominal competitors, but that's expensive stuff. They're trying to get a kickstarter fund going, but at a target of $55,000, it seems to my mind too ambitious - especially when most people are happy just to get stuff for free these days.

    It will be interesting to see how FFV seeks to work with independent media outlets. In the past, when a new media person came into FFV and decided that the token donation that FFV made to Goal Weekly was in vain - 'because all they do is hammer us' - that essentially ended Goal Weekly's ability to run during the winter season (though blame must also be apportioned to the clubs themselves, few enough of whom bothered to assist).

    What we lost when Goal Weekly retreated to summer was not only an independent news outlet dedicated to the game, but also a paper of record so far as Victorian soccer is concerned. We still haven't figured out as a soccer community how we're going preserve all those things that are now online, and only online. FFV record keeping in terms of even the most basic statistics is atrocious (and again, some of the blame must go to the clubs, who show little interest in performing their allocated task of providing team lists and other info).

    We also don't want a situation where only FFV or the clubs themselves provide news and information about Victorian soccer. Losing MFootball means losing another centralised and legit seeming avenue for ambitious soccer writers to get a start in this state. I think here also of the combination of amateurs, veterans and budding professionals we lost when the Goal Weekly print edition stopped. Victorian soccer has been historically resilient at creating its own independent media - if one group fails, something usually comes up to replace it - but at what point does that well of entrepreneurship dry up?

    Questions of history
    One thing that often gets sidelined in discussions of media and promotion are questions to do with history, Dealing with history in this case means contending with the twin problems of accuracy and preservation.

    Accuracy has been a persistent problem. FFV expects clubs to do a lot of the legwork on this, and yet we find that beyond recording scores, we get little more information. I know I've made the comparison with local cricket before, and it's not an entirely fair one to make - after all, cricket's scoring proclivities are tied to that game's ability to attract a certain kind of anorak, as well as being a game whose pace is suited to the task of collecting statistics.

    But for soccer, why is it so hard to input the starting lineups of both sides, and the scorers with minute scored? Substitutes? Red and yellow cards? You'd think in this modern age of computers and such, it should be easy and quick enough to do so. A junior cricketer in this state can trace his playing statistics across the age groups, across clubs, across representative tournaments. Meanwhile in Victorian soccer, we get bogged down in arcane arguments about where players played their junior football at, in order to be able to claim the point bonuses for a player points system that ends up with myriad errors anyway.

    Preservation is a harder beast to deal with. As much as the web has allowed us easier (and cheaper) access to information, the drawbacks in terms of durability are often ignored. While it was a sad day when Goal Weekly ceased publishing its print edition, at least its archive of print editions have survived, and they could conceivably in future be sent to the State Library of Victoria or the Melbourne Cricket Club Library, for perusal by future generations.

    If MFootball is seemingly on its last legs, how will its repository of photos and stories survive? It's a problem also shared by FFV. After myriad website changes and switches between different fixture and results packages (often out of FFV's control, because they are compelled to buy into national systems), the proper treatment of archival material tends to be the first thing that gets thrown on the scrapheap.

    It then falls down to groups like OzFootball and its volunteers, which do as good a job as they can, but they work with antiquated technology (html) with which it is nightmarish to compile data, let alone update it - and forget about easy-ish cross-referencing ala Wikipedia.

    It's a problem that's going to persist, because for many clubs, history is the last thing they think to invest in, relying instead on oral histories. FFV itself is hardly in a better position to make a difference here, unfortunately.

    On the blogging front
    Of course South of the Border keeps doing it what it does, but West of the Quarry seems to have variously re-booted and stalled - even its Twitter feed of late seems to be more interested in South Melbourne than Knights news. Related to that however is the argument that blogging is now long past its heyday, and looking around the traps, that certainly seems to be the case.

    With the onset of the A-League and the associated 'boom' in interest in Australian soccer, there was a burst of activity of people creating blogs. Not many lasted very long, because that's the nature of blogging, but there were others that did manage to stick it out for a bit but which have also fallen by the wayside.

    Then I suppose people moved into writing for The Roar website, or trying to come up with more legit looking websites with their own domain names. But even there, one wonders if there are more people writing for websites or forums (what's left of those) or social media than people actually interesting in reading.

    Even if they only exist to serve the interests of a very niche audience, the existence - and persistence - of supporter blogs and forums is indicative of the health of the competition they cover, in the sense that if the most die hard fans don't care to write and read about their clubs and the competition they compete in, what hope for getting anybody new on board to do so?

    Football Chaos and the lower leagues
    Outside of the NPL, there are some clubs and different groups attempting to maintain a Youtube presence, either by doing it themselves or using the services by private videographers such as NMS Media. Of course the lower down you go the more niche this gets, as I think everyone involved with Victorian soccer media is well aware of by now.

    And yet the best of the Victorian lower league action - indeed, of any grassroots soccer in Australia - of course continues to come from Steven Gray and Football Chaos. Covering games off his own bat where others fear to tread - including non-NPL women's games, non-FFV sanctioned tournaments, as well as the odd regional game - the interest levels are still niche, but the quality of Football Chaos' work has rightly earned it its own cult audience.

    I've lost track of how many games I've watched courtesy of Football Chaos. Since Football Chaos is not the kind of organisation to go out there soliciting funds, often times it feels like you're sponging off someone's tireless efforts, but if you did want to donate something visit their PayPal page.

    Saturday, 7 January 2017

    Hot Hot Heat - South Melbourne 5 North Geelong 1

    Walking out of the house this morning and wondering why I was even bothering going out in the ridiculous heat, I could feel my left eye begin to get irritated, knowing that its light sensitivity was going to play havoc with whatever limited enjoyment I would get from watching whatever it was I intended to go watch.

    But some people have it worse, in this case by actually being asked to go and play in that heat even if only for three bursts of thirty minutes apiece. Once more we fielded a strong lineup - the way the depth of the squad is looking, our second or less preferred XI would probably be none too shabby in its own right - and looked pretty good, at least from what I could make out from the occasional glances into the ultra brightness that I was able to make without wincing.

    Anyway, from what people tell me, Luke Adams was apparently out there, and triallist Gavin De Niese managed to get on the field as well - thus far he's only been seen warming up on his way back from injury. It looks like there will be a couple of friendlies during the upcoming week, one on Wednesday and another on Saturday, so keep an eye out for those. There's also a trip to Wodonga coming up as well. Undecided about heading up for that one myself just yet.

    There was also the matter of this fixture doubling up as a chance for people to donate to the fund to assist former NSL player David Cervinski, who is batting stage four melanoma. The crowd as you'd expect wans't huge, but their generosity was, and I thank them for that. I'm sure the club will put out a number for the total raised once they tally up what the players from both sides and South's directors chipped in as well.

    Thursday, 5 January 2017

    First friendly for 2017 this Saturday

    This Saturday we're playing our first friendly for 2017, up against North Geelong at Lakeside. Kickoff is at 11:30. There will also be some fundraising via gold coin donation at the gate for David Cervinksi, who is battling stage four melanoma.

    Arrivals and departures
    We've re-signed Marcus Schroen, Michael Eagar and Tim Mala for 2017. We've also secured our goalkeeping stocks, with Nikola Roganovic and Zaim Zeneli also recommitting for 2017.

    From the remainder of the 2016 squad, still up in the air (at least nominally) are the fates of Luke Adams, Andy Kecojevic and Leigh Minopoulos - maybe Stephen Hatzikostas as well considering that during the pre-season he has once again been riding his motorcycle chasing the horizon.

    As per last time, the following players are known to be contracted for next season.
      Mathew Theodore has retired, or gone off on sabbatical. Oh, and we've added the departure of Manolo for the sake of completeness, even though he left during the 2016 season. Players who have officially left the club so far:

      Sunday, 1 January 2017

      December 2016 digest

      Social club news (and more musings on capacities)
      There have been no official updates on the status of the build itself that I'm aware of, nor have I been made privy to unofficial murmurings that I can both recall and that are also worth repeating here. However one of our readers has made us aware of (publicly available) documents on the liquor licence for both the social club and the stadium as a whole.

      One of the first and most obvious changes is that there will now be two separate liquor licences, As the stadium and the social club are now under separate licences, you will not be able to take liquor from the social club out into the stadium area, though patrons will be able to, as our correspondent noted, take alcohol off the premises, ie 'buy a slab to rake home'. I suppose this will also mean you will be able to be served alcohol in a glass inside the social club as well. The social club's liquor licence hours are:
      • Sunday: Between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m.
      • Good Friday & Anzac Day: Between 12 noon and 11 p.m.
      • Monday To Friday: Between 7 a.m. and 1 a.m.
      • Saturday: Between 7 a.m. and 12 midnight.
      Which I assume is the same as it ever was, and that as it was back then, so too will a limited amount of extended trading hour applications be available to the club. No capacity is listed on the social club's licence. In terms of who can be served and under what conditions, the 'licence is a full club licence' which 'authorises the licensee to supply liquor on the licensed premises'
      • to a member of the club for consumption on or off the licensed premises; and
      • to an authorised gaming visitor or guest of a member for consumption on the licensed premises.
      Which seems to suggest to me something like the Celtic Club in the city, where visitors or guests of members will have to sign in upon entering the social club, which seems consistent with what I've been told in the past. As an aside, I wonder how much it has cost the club to renew and maintain its liquor licence during the time that there has been no active or usable social per se, assuming that the club was in fact renewing and maintaining its liquor licence over that time.

      For the stadium liquor licence, the interesting part is where there is specification of the stadium's capacity. The 'internal area' (which I assume refers to either the corporate or the function space) capacity is listed at 220 patrons, while the  'external area' capacity is listed at 7,400 patrons, for an overall maximum of 7,620 patrons. When this total is put together with South of the Border's count of the grandstand seating - which you up'll recall was 5338 - it leaves about 2,300 as the standing room capacity as calculated by the government.

      Whether theoretically you could squeeze many more into the standing room areas is another matter entirely, but it's nice to have what appears to be a legit figure from the government itself about Lakeside Stadium's official current capacity.

      2017 Fixtures released
      And they are, interesting. Almost certainly because of the delay to the social club's refit, we've pulled a bit of a Ballarat Red Devils 2014 move and are playing our first seven games away. Apart from that, some things to note.
      • Almost all our home games at this stage are scheduled for Sundays at 4:00. How civilised. The exceptions to that rule are an Easter Monday game against Melbourne Knights, and our final round game with the simultaneous 3:00PM kickoffs.
      • We have an extra Monday night away fixture, with Kingston continuing to play home games on Mondays. Another chance to reiterate how stupid Monday night games are. 
      • Avondale will continue playing their home games at Knights Stadium.
      • A few teams are experimenting with different days and time-slots. The Bergers and Gully probably the most notable of these with their Saturday evening/night time-slots.
      But things could change! Let me know if they do.

      Public transport guide updated
      I have updated my public transport guide. Unfortunately for the public transport brigade, we've lost some of the easier grounds to visit, and ended up with some of the worst. No matter, we press on. I've changed the format slightly, getting rid of the bullet points (for the most part), adding some basic map images for each entry, and noting the existence (or otherwise) of PSOs at various train stations. As usual, please send in any corrections or suggestions.

      Vale Dave Maclaren
      As noted on Mark Boric's blog (which also has some good links), former South Melbourne Hellas coach Dave Maclaren passed away during December. A goalkeeper as a player, Maclaren coached South in 1978 after coming down from Sydney (with the side finishing third, two games behind champions West Adelaide), as well as the early part of the disastrous 1979 season, where the club finished last for the first and hitherto only time in its history. Maclaren's coaching stint at South was relatively short, but his connection to South continued in the form of his son Bruce (who was the goalkeeper in the championship year of 1991), and grandson Fraser, who played a handful of games for South in 2015.

      Even FFV's NPL Victoria Facebook page is getting on board the 'People's
      Champ' gimmick. Indeed, the change in tone and frequency of that
      Facebook page talking about South has not gone unnoticed by both
      South fans and opposition persons. I'm sure the majority of South people
       are loving it, though some, like myself, are wary of it causing a backlash
       or coming across as FFV playing favourites. I guess the theory is to be
      loved or hated is better than to not be thought of at all. Though to be fair,
      FFV probably just enjoy getting the kind  of social media metrics and
      interactions that South is getting, even if some of that is anecdotal.
      More on FFV's overall NPL media strategy in a post coming in early 2017.
      Arrivals and departures
      Some new signings have finally been announced, including several Brisbanites in the form of Jesse Daley, Luke Pavlou and Ajdin Fetahagic - the last of whom did his ACL during a training session. We've also upgraded youth player Joshua Hodes to the senior list, and welcomed back winger Stefan Zinni from his ultimately unsuccessful Melbourne Heart stint. That's a lot of youth right there. 

      In addition to that, we've signed Bentleigh midfielder/utility Liam McCormick, and surprised a few people, your correspondent included, by signing former South player Francesco Stella. The People's Champ and Kristian Konstantindis have signed for 2017. while Matthew Foschini has signed two more seasons.

      There is talk that there are still a couple of players to be signed, as well decisions needing to be made on the fates of several fringe players.

      As per last time, the following players are known to be contracted for next season.
        Mathew Theodore has retired, or gone off on sabbatical. Oh, and we've added the departure of Manolo for the sake of completeness, even though he left during the 2016 season. Players who have officially left the club so far:

        A-League expansion ephemera/continuing chronicle of self-regard
        Scheduled for the 2018/19 A-League season, which makes irrelevant (probably) our claim that we could be ready for season 2017/18 - unless it's part of the FFA conspiracy to keep us down by allowing time for other bids to sprout. Some have contended that that time line makes it harder for a South bid. I think if the bid is good enough it will get in on its own merits regardless of the time frame. And would you really want to get in based only having rushed the process? Don't answer that question.

        The actual existence of other bids aside from our own and the Tasmania bid remains a sketchy proposition at best - but then again, so do the nuts and bolts details of those two bids as well, so it all evens itself out in the end.

        One of the things we at South of the Border have been concerned interested in finding out is how Lakeside would be changed in order to create more seating capacity, at least on a temporary basis. To that end, the upcoming Usain Bolt athletics event in early February will go some way towards answering that question, at least in terms of providing a practical example of what can be achieved at Lakeside on that front.

        Below is the seating map for that event. Note that apart from the yellow fixed stands we already know and love, there are western and eastern grandstands where the terraces are - which will be news to the terraces that already live there, I'm sure.

        One suspects then that there will temporary grandstands installed, with what right now to me is an indeterminate/unknown number of seats. The general admission seating costs about $45 for the 'western' stand, and about $35 for the 'eastern' stand, and for the east it appears to be 'first in, best dressed', because you may end up in the standing room area at the back. Reserved seating costs a whopping $70, and all those prices don't include the booking fee if you purchase tickets online. All of which makes one think twice about attending this event for the primary purpose of investigating the grandstands.

        There's also been a TV deal settled - or at least the major component thereof in the form of the pay television aspect, with the free to air bit yet to come. The deal will end up being a big increase on what FFA had, but not as much as FFA wanted. More problematic for them was there was no one clamouring for the majority rights other than Fox Sports. As it relates to us though, it's all neither here nor there as far as I can tell. Maybe behind the scenes the networks are saying we need another team in Melbourne, but I'm not behind the scenes to know that.

        In the post AGM round up we warned you that the club would continue on its path of most salacious self-aggrandisement, and even though news has dried up a little - I suppose people had to take some time off to see their familiies and such - it reached new heights when it was suggested that Roberto Carlos would be coach of 'our' A-League side. All of which was news to Roberto Carlos himself.
        Others were more willing to play South's game and at least pretend that this was all legit, but they still duly noted: why choose Roberto Carlos in the first place, an excellent free kick taker but thus far incredibly mediocre manager? But it's the hype that matters, you see,  The mostly mock concern over Chris Taylor's feelings on the matter was laid on a bit thick to be honest.

        One trend which has emerged in recent times, at least on a secluded corner of the internet, is South fans being split along the lines of either being wholly for the whatever it takes approach to getting this A-League bid up and going, saying whatever needs to be said no matter how outrageous; to more Negative Nancy types who think this whole is a joke. The latter being in the minority, they've copped their fair share of heat for pointing out some of the absolute nonsense being peddled by people associated with 'our' bid.

        As you may have guessed, your correspondent tends to fall into the latter category on this matter. That's not to say that I approve of the tone of some of the negativity, because it can and has become as predictably knee-jerk and pedestrian in its instinctive reflexivity as those who are all the way with whatever the hell it is some people are trying to do.

        But because I share some or even many of their broader concerns on this matter, I like to think there is a way of putting forward that case that doesn't simply play out as an attempt (whether deliberate or not) to try and seem cooler than everyone else by the taking up of a minority position.

        And I say this because there are many things with the presentation of this South bid which have reached beyond mere old fashioned Hellas arrogance, and which have ended up instead increasingly further away from anything resembling reality (provided of course that we exist in the 50% possibility that we're not in a simulacrum).

        That being the case, we should as South fans be allowed to fairly criticise those kinds of claims, without fear of being labeled as recalcitrants or other such erms. While remembering the necessary caveat that not that of any of that matters, if we are to believe that this stuff does matter, we have a right to be concerned with the club's image and the way it is portrayed in the public.

        But back to the issue at hand. Further complicating matters is the announcement of real estate development firm Luvarc as our major sponsor for next season. When we say complicated, this is because Luvarc is associated with Louisa Chen, who at one point - that point being the bid's initial soft-launch - was seemingly being touted as an investor. Then at the AGM they said there were no investors. After that, well it's been hard to keep track of which story to take seriously, or where these stories may all fit in the time-line. Historians looking back at this era are going to have a lot of problems, though since we're not going to make it into the A-League, it probably won't matter so much.

        On a side note, I am absolutely fascinated by what seems like the increasingly deliberate tactic of not putting up anything about the A-League bid on the website. Are you intrigued by all the South Melbourne A-League bid hoopla and want to find out more? Well visit our website and learn about... all the players we've signed for next season. Facebook and Twitter seem to be taking up all the slack on that, letting people comment and I assume having their comments deleted as the case may be. It's almost like leaving as little a formal digital paper trail as possible at home base, instead preferring to dirty up the social media frontier - basically anywhere the interest can be made to seem like it is being driven by individuals and groups outside of South Melbourne Hellas.

        But we've talked at length about these things before...

        We came out of that pretty well
        Oh, and those worried that by losing the Melbourne City/South Melbourne Toyota sponsorship we'd lose the van, have no fear! Team manager Frank Piccione will get to keep driving around our de facto social club regardless.

        Another one from the 'why did nobody tell me?' files
        Did you know that midfielder Stephen Hatzikostas made a film of some kind, or that he was a painter? Or that he had an exhibition of both these sides of his artistic self during (I'm guessing) September this year? Even though I'm not particularly artistic myself, and clearly prefer the literary arts to the visual, I am disappointed that those who know me well enough at South Melbourne did not think to tell me that Mr. Hatzikostas was presenting work in a gallery space, knowing that I don't mind visiting galleries, nor considering that I would be interested even at the base level of 'holy crap, here's a South Melbourne player doing something different'. There's so much other crap on the website and social media from our end, why not even a cursory mention of this? (unless that's the way Stevie Hatz wanted it?) I mean, there might also be a valid critique to be made asking whether we really need another film about riding a motorbike through America, but that's for the potential audience to decide, surely? Couldn't they at least make up their own minds in the fading but still warm afterglow of the grand final victory, whether Stevie Hatz's late arrival to pre-season preparation because he was busy riding across the United States while making this movie was all worth it?

        Anyway, here's a half related and true story. Back in, oh, about 2009 I think, I was in a documentary making class as part of my undergrad professional writing course, and I was teamed up with a bloke who wanted to make a doco (25 minutes or so in length) about what it was like to be a motorcyclist in Melbourne, or some such topic. He ended up doing most of the work, because he had the proper knowhow and technology at home to edit the footage (and Vic Uni was very slack in teaching us anything to do with that), though I did provide as much as technical and editorial assistance as I could, as well as moral support when something electrical blew up and he had to work from a much older save file. I would have done more work on the film had I been able to ride along the back of my mate's Triumph while holding a video camera - unfortunately when I tried putting on the motorcycle helmet I got claustrophobic within about three seconds, and in the end some German/Austrian exchange student who was not a part of our team (or even part of that subject) ended up doing the ride along filming. Apart from ongoing residual guilt about having earned an HD for something I didn't really do enough on, everything worked out OK in the end, and there was no resentment from my partner. I even made use of the experience, by using the experience of walking between the St Albans campus and my mate's place off Main Road West to ponder how easy it would be to dump a body in the wetlands that act as an impromptu nature reserve near the campus, and I included as a section in the only piece of literary fiction I've had published.

        Anyway, we find probably the one person at South Melbourne Hellas whose artistic pursuits aren't limited to strictly consumer exploitation oriented graphical and web design, and nobody deems this even remotely important.

        Monday, 26 December 2016

        Nine years of people visiting to see if they've been defamed

        There were many times this year where I thought the blog was not up to scratch, but that may very well be just your typical self-absorbed writer's self-loathing cry for attention and validation.

        And when I look back on the year that was, there were still some good pieces in there, two of which - the Victory brawl post, and the A-League expansion bid musings post - managed to get into this blog's all time top ten list in terms of hits.

        Anyway we're nine years in -  and I do include South of the Border's audience in this - and I have no intention of stopping. Next year promises to be an interesting one for the club on many levels, as well as for me personally, but we'll cross those bridges when we come to them.

        For now, thanks to the following people:

        Foti for helping organise and circulate the petition calling for an EGM early this year. Strange how the AGM managed to be announced within five minutes of the end of that round 1 game.

        The Agitator, for providing many South Melbourne match programmes, both from home and away fixtures. Also Mark Boric, Gav, Chris Egan and JJ75. for sharing parts of their own collections. I will try harder to catch up on the massive backlog of stuff that I have borrowed from people.

        Joe Gorman for prompting me to go through a trawl of the blog's archives, and for recognising the value of the kinds of stuff I'm looking at for my thesis.

        Kon for sending in his memories of a now former house, which prompted some good discussion on Garvey's Baby Blues.

        Savvas Tzionis for his piece on what's going on in New South Wales.

        Vin Maskell for putting up a version of my last day at Chaplin Reserve piece on his Scoreboard Pressure site.

        Shoot Farken for publishing my review of Nuts! (nothing to do with soccer, but a film worth seeing if you can.)

        Supermercado for providing the 'People's Champ' moniker.

        Mark Bosnich for actually following through with his promise to meet with myself and Pave Jusup. Sorry for the folks at home, but as it was a private conversation, details will not be posted here.

        Football Today for retweeting the odd post.

        Anyone else who contributed artefacts.

        Anyone I stole photos from.

        Everyone who voted for Lucas Neill.

        Everyone who left comments.

        Everyone who shared this stuff on Twitter.

        Everyone who gave me and Gains a lift somewhere, including Shouty Mike.

        Matthew Klugman, Ian Syson, and Gains.

        And Peter Kokotis, if you are out there somewhere, can you please finally send me a copy of that photo of Yarra Park Aias? Thanks.

        The things you find when you google yourself.

        Wednesday, 21 December 2016

        Notes from the 2016 South Melbourne Hellas AGM (no, not the one from earlier in the year, the other one, the proper one)

        Usual necessary disclaimer
        This report was done in something more akin to a thematic order rather than reflecting the precise order of the events of the evening. Circumstances on the night made it much harder to take notes in my usual and only slightly more precise manner, as you will see.

        Man, we're missin' the Death Blow!
        Due to an unfortunate confluence of events, I missed the first 15 minutes or so of the 2016 South Melbourne Hellas AGM because of first, family duties and later, a disappearing tram. What took part during my absence was described as both a non-event, but also as the most contentious part of the evening, as matters of constitutional validity were apparently discussed in a heated manner. My arrival at the AGM coincided with the end of that discussion, where someone from the floor attempted in vain to put up a motion to demand president Leo Athanasakis' resignation. Unfortunately, having not been present for those exchanges, I can't report on them with any reliability.

        With regards to the possible need for an election and its attendant bloodletting and turmoil, in the end there was no need for elections. One of the four alleged nominees for the board appears to have pulled out, and thus the other three have joined the board without issue or the need to force an election. How that was organised or played out behind the scenes, I don't know. What I do know is that I am glad that it did not need to come to an election at this point in time. We'll see how it all plays out in practice however.

        Should the Democratic People's Republic of South Melbourne Hellas implement the policy of changing to rule by philosopher kings? Philosopher kings say 'yes', low income nobodies say 'no'.
        That sequence of events therefore passed almost without issue. One member, towards the end of the night's proceedings, asked that in future we consider setting strict(er) criteria about who should be allowed to sit on the board of the club. While this was probably intended in the context of a strengthening of our board's overall corporate governance expertise and credentials, especially considering the range of sponsor, stakeholder and statutory bodies we deal with, it was taken by some (and not without good reason) as an attack on the status of the club as a member run club; one where any member is entitled to apply to join the board regardless of some esoteric notion of 'qualification'.

        For his part, chairman Nick Galatas noted that there were already such provisions in place from the 1977 constitution, but more importantly that the club was looking to modernise the constitution in the future, something which I have been an advocate of for some time. The club that exists now, and the conditions that it exists in now, need to operate under a constitutional framework that reflects that reality. The reduction of the board from 21 to 11 earlier this year was one of those necessary changes.

        Still, as a member run club we must be wary of unreasonably diluting the rights of members. Circumstances will seemingly always arise in such entities whereby people, either because of the effects of meritocracy or plutocracy, will come to dominate board positions, and in our late capitalist state of being that's to be expected. But this club is still at least nominally a collective, and it needs to reflect that fact - or at least until such time as the members willingly decide to forfeit their status as nominally equal members of that collective.

        It's money that I love/social club progress
        The financial report came towards the end of the evening, which was an unusual occurrence - usually it is among the first items dealt with. The consolidated accounts showed a profit of about $16k, up from about $7k from the previous financial year. The president, who as usual provided the report instead of the treasurer, noted that over the course of the past ten years, our turnover has gone from roughly $600k to about $1.4 million. With the operation of the social club, futsal court and the addition of the WNPL/Women's component, the club hopes (expects?) to double that turnover.

        On the question of how the social club will operate in terms of management, a venue manager will be hired - and rather than reporting to a general manager (a role which at present does not exist at the club since the departure of Peter Kokotis a year or so back I think), the venue manager will report directly to the board. One of the goals of the board is to gradually delegate the day to day management of the club away from board members and towards paid staff. Apart from lessening the heavy workload currently undertaken by our board members, it would also allow them to focus more on strategy as opposed to the day to day implementation and operation of the club.

        Whereas in the past the club had asserted that it would probably take out a loan of about $200k to finish the social club redevelopment, the actual figure that the club plans to take out is about $450k. The confidence in being able to take manage such a loan is based (at least from my understanding) on two separate but related criteria. The first is that an operational social club and futsal centre will bring in money to the club. The second relates to the paying off of the Wellington Investments debt

        The paying off of the debenture loan debt is near completion - there are at most two payments left to make on that as of yesterday. Athanasakis sought to emphasise the burden of the paying off of that debt, which was incurred from the machinations of the club's attempt to stave off extinction back in 2004. Apart from managing to erase that debt once and for all, the end of this saga means a debt that added nothing to the club, finally allows the club to turn towards investment and expansion of its operations. On the related matter of whether the club had enough working capital to commence operation of the bistro and futsal centre, the answer was 'yes'.

        There have been delays in aspects of the social club rebuild, though the cause of the delays was not specified. It did seem to be confirmed in a circuitous fashion that these delays were the reason we will be playing our opening seven games of the season away from home. The club is optimistic however that the extended build period will allow the build team to complete the task er, completely, as opposed to I suppose having a functional operation that will still require further work even after its official opening.

        Intruder alert!
        The underused upstairs function space has had a redesign, decreasing the size of the function room space and adding some office space. The club is open to options in utilising that function space, while the newly added office space will apparently be used by the Sydney Swans as part of their Melbourne presence. This presents an opportunity for the Swans and ourselves to liaise - even if only limited to them hiring out or using our social club space - in a manner which has not happened for many years.

        Winning is our business... and business is good... but also expensive
        Following the end of the South Melbourne Hellas AGM, we went almost immediately into the SMFC AGM, which was very brief, and was more or less a procedural formality. I can't recall if it was during this meeting where the on field aspect was discussed, but I'll put that discussion here anyway. Apart from looking back at the year that was, senior football director Nick Maikousis outlined the signings we have made; the signings we are likely to make; the youth players we're looking to promote; the players who have left; and the remaining players whose status at the club remains up in the air.

        Also, it was confirmed that one of our new signings, Ajdin Fetahagić, did his ACL during a training session, and will probably miss most of the 2017 season.

        It was noted that the season was by and large a success - after all, we won the title - but that it was also a difficult season, and one perhaps salvaged by coming good at the right time of year. It was noted that, as we had run out of legs in 2015, so did Bentleigh in 2016, and that managing such a lengthy campaign with its increasingly congested schedule is difficult for semi-professional footballers to manage. While there is ongoing consternation among some of our fans for our failure to take advantage of the FFA Cup opportunity, the reality is that the FFA Cup is an unreliable means of getting national attention. One bad game, one difficult opponent, and it's over.

        (I will note here as an aside, that despite some talk about the national NPL playoff series being scrapped, this appears to not be the case, and thus there is always the second chance raffle of qualifying for the FFA Cup via that route. Not us, of course, because we'd bugger it up, but I'm speaking from a theoretical point here).

        It was noted also that winning in senior men's football in this competition is an expensive business, but since winning is our main business, it can be difficult to contain the costs of wages. Nevertheless, as the board has reiterated at previous AGMs, the club does not believe that it pays as much as some rival teams - especially in terms of signing on bonuses - and more importantly, it is trying to create a sustainable winning culture. Maikousis also noted, I believe in response to a question from the floor, that we wanted to and would continue to aim for winning every trophy that was available to us.

        A word about the women
        Mention was made of the on field success of the women's teams in 2016, and the reappointment of Socrates Nicolaides as the senior coach. There was also mention made of course about our successful bidding for a WNPL licence, and the preparation that took place in order to secure that licence - it's fair to say that there was some moderate boasting about the quality of the licence bid document that the club put together for that purpose. There was also much praise for the fact the women are now back in the fold.

        There was no mention that I can recall of SMWFC and how it would function from 2017 onwards, nor anything about the relationship between SMFC and SMWFC. Also not very many women in attendance at the AGM either. Just saying.

        And here come the procedural complaints, finally
        Unusually for these effectively consolidated meetings - two separate groups, two separate boards, but basically one and the same - the whole thing was over in less than two hours. That meant that the agenda was largely adhered to by those in attendance, but it did feel like there could have been more time made for questions from the floor. While several board members did make the time after the meeting to discuss things one on one with members who had further questions - a gesture which I applaud - I felt that the official part of the meeting could have had more time for questions.

        On a personal level, I think next year I will make a more concerted effort to get the club to provide membership breakdowns and attendances. These used to be provided in AGMs, but have gone missing over the past five years or so. I see no good reason for the members not to know what our membership and attendance figures are - though of course I could come up with reasons why the board or the club would not want to do so.

        Now being armed with an annual list of questions, even in my late rush to compile a list this year (and thanks to 'anonymous' for adding some good ones to the comments at such late notice). it was disappointing not to be able to ask a few more questions. I don't expect to have them all answered, because otherwise we'd still be there now, but I feel like we - perhaps against the usual procedure - rushed through things a bit. Or maybe the absence of Tom Kalas and his 'legendary PowerPoint presentations' (which were noted in the 2015 AGM minutes) made things run much more smoothly.

        One hopes that this will be the final time the Presidents Room will ever be used as an AGM venue. Despite the poor delivery of the notice of an AGM and the lousy timing of the meetings, the AGM was very well attended. Indeed, there were so many members in attendance that about a dozen people, including your correspondent, had to stand at the back of the room for the near two hour duration of the meetings - a fact which was made less pleasant by the smell of paint or plaster or some such at the back of the room.

        (Arriving late and standing at the back as opposed to sitting also served to direct more attention to myself, which was not entirely a desired outcome. I expected to not have very much to say at this meeting, what with all the apparent discontent among some of the masses; in the end I also ended up proposing and occasionally seconding several of the procedural motions - adopting minutes, approval of the auditor, etc - because it seemed that no one else would, which also became a sort of weird joke. There was also some notable absentees last night, such as George Karantonis.)

        Next year one hopes that the redeveloped social club will play host to the AGM, which one also hopes will be held at a more reasonable time of year, and on a more reasonable day. While acknowledging also that scheduling conflicts can occur, one would also like to see the full complement of board members at next year's meeting; on that front the absence yesterday of Bill Papastergiadis and Andrew Mesorouni was unfortunate. While Mesorouni's absence was adequately covered by Nick Maikousis, who shares football director duties with him, Papastergiadis' absence (for legitimate personal reasons) meant that the A-League bid discussion did not have its main figurehead present to discuss strategy and detail with the members.

        Overall the club seems to be continuing on a steady journey of consolidating its on and field positions as a leading soccer club in this state. Its members seem to be as engaged as I've ever seen them with the operation of the club, if last night's attendance is anything to go by; that in itself is cause for quiet celebration. Nevertheless the challenges the club faces in this restrictive operational environment will persist, continuing to make it difficult to realise the club's full potential, whatever that may be. One hesitates to fall back on the notion of being too big for this competition, but too small for the next one, for fear of coming across as arrogant, but there is a measure of truth to that.

        You didn't think we'd forgotten about this issue?
        And so we come in a very roundabout way to the matter of the A-League bid. The club noted last night that it was the lack of a likely creation of a second division that saw the club head towards the direction of formulating a bid. For those hoping for a curbing of the club's, shall we say, 'extroverted' approach to publicity, you're out of luck. For those who are interested in how Lakeside as an A-League venue may look in terms of added (temporary) seating capacity, the Usain Bolt/Nitro athletics series in early February 2017 will provide some guide.

        The nature of the bid also, and whether it will be a private/public partnership, has also been thrown up into the air somewhat. Despite previous comments by Papastergiadis that the bid will involve 'several investors' - a claim which the board representative answering my question seemed to deny existed - the board retreated under cover of the line that the club will wait for the bid criteria to be released next year before making further comment on the structure of a South Melbourne aligned A-League licence bid. Because the release of the bid criteria by FFA has apparently been pushed back to some vague point mid next year, be prepared for a lot more idle speculation.

        Although there was some discussion, and I may be reading too much into this, that it may be a possibility that South would still be keen an a W-League place regardless of its success/failure to win an A-League licence.

        A little bit of offhand theory about future directions
        Apart from its A-League ambitions, the club is aiming to take on what some have seen as a risky venture in the operation of a social club/bistro/futsal centre that is as much targeted outwards into the public as much as satisfying the needs of its own members. It is, I think, a risk that must be taken - the last thing the club needs to do is revert to a safe and comfortable introversion. That does not mean that things will necessarily go smoothly, or as well as hoped for. How an organisation deals with failure or obstacles is arguably a far better measure of its resilience than how it deals with success - and within the bounds of our circumstances, this club has had a lot of success recently.

        Some of the subjects that I don't remember being broached
        Why the AGM mail out was done so poorly - though that may have been covered before I got there.

        Likewise why the AGM was being held so late in the year.

        Anything other than the most cursory mention of our social media efforts.

        Real Madrid 'relationship' and stuff to do with GISS.

        BLK fiasco - admittedly not in the club's control for the most part.

        Match day experience at Lakeside, in terms of being harassed by security/SSCT employees.