What's the point of Sunday trading, and how can you really call yourselves the world's most liveable city, when one can't even organise to have regular trams running before 10am? Never mind, I got to the Lakeside car park on time anyway, so good on me. Mind you, the bus did not leave at 10:30 am sharp as advertised, not that I'm complaining. Bloody Greeks and their sense of punctuality.
Apart from fielding text messages from one nincompoop who asked that we stop by the Hume Highway near his house - which I fobbed off as brusquely as possible - the trip up was uneventful apart from pulling the curtains open and shut fifteen million times because of the sun. Also we stopped in Nagambie for lunch, and got to the ground in Shepparton in time to watch the second half of the under 20s (including one unfamiliar spindly Bambi-esque specimen playing for us).
Being 160 kilometres closer to the equator and/or hell, Shepparton was a lot warmer than what Melbourne was when I left, and thus rather uncomfortable but that's also my fault because I should have known that'd be the case following my one and only other trip up there back in 1999, a short stopover while on a bus to the Gold Coast for a school trip, where I had lunch at Maccas while our bus drivers perved on my female classmates, back in the days when a term like jailbait had yet to cross over from internet geek lexicon into daily real world usage.
The senior game itself had all the intensity of a pre-season friendly, and what's more I barely even saw the first goal go in after just a couple of minutes because I was still trying to figure out where the best place to stand or sit was - note to everyone who visits John McEwan Reserve, there are no really good spots - before Matthew Theodore's terrific effort in just the second minute (never mind folks, I saw the video while it was being edited on the bus on the way home) made it 1-0 and we could have gone home right there. Nick Epifano made it 2-0 not that long after, a detail I'm adding for the sake of that I actually saw that one go in.
APART FROM BY COMPLETE ACCIDENT AND EVEN THEN STILL LOSE GAMES WHEN WE DO SCORE FROM THEM and LEST WE FORGET THE ATTEMPT TO GO FOR A SHORT CORNER LAST YEAR AGAINST GULLY WHEN WE WERE 1-0 DOWN IN THE DOCKERTY CUP SEMI, PURE FUCKING GENIUS THAT WAS. SO HOW ABOUT JUST STICKING TO TRYING TO SCORE GOALS DELIBERATELY, BY SENDING IN CORNERS WHICH GET THE DEFENCE SCRAMBLING AND THE GOALKEEPER FLAPPING, INSTEAD OF FUCKING AROUND TRYING TO BE TOO CLEVER BY HALF, ORRIGHT? ORRIGHT.
Anyway, 2-0 up the break we were on cruise control, but then the home team decided to make it 2-1 when some very slack defending from our end, letting those orange freaks pull one back. Thankfully we got it back to 3-1 pretty much straight away, with Milos Lujic equalising from the penalty spot to equal the Jimmy Armstrong and Dougie Brown record of 22 goals in a league season, though of course if Lujic would occasionally pull the trigger just a little earlier he may have had some more this season, but what do I know? I just thump these keys and scowl at the fact that I will never be able to run a lap of the ground without throwing up my lunch, let alone slot one on ones past fast approaching and maybe even competent goalkeepers.
But speaking of orange freaks, there was this one Suns player in the second half whose face almost turned the colour of his jersey. It was a bit warm out there, but it was nothing akin to the heat of the bake that referee Perry Mur gave to one of the home team's players after said Suns player went down a bit easy and Mur told him to stop whingeing or else he'd send him packing. Or words to that effect, which one would hope were captured by the camera microphones because it was about as close as one could reasonably get.
We gave Andy Kecojevic his debut yesterday, which I'm not against (if you're reading this, hi Andy, nice through ball you played yesterday), but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, because if we were still in a situation where we needed to win this game instead of just turning up because we've already had one forfeit too many in these past 54 years, he would not have played, nor would Dion Kirk have started the game. I suppose what I'm trying to say here is that I still miss Nicky Jacobs.
Aside from a Jamie Reed goal to make it 4-1, that was it. The game over, we sauntered over to the sheltered area where the folks from Shepparton South Soccer Club put on a free barbecue, which was a nice gesture since it wasn't their home game (even if it was their home ground), and was better than whatever efforts the Goulburn Valley people put forward to anyone that wasn't a visiting dignitary. We kept in touch with the results from the rest of the day's games, notably Port's 96th minute equaliser against Werribee to stave off relegation (whatever that means) and send Ballarat down in their place (also whatever that may means, and I don't care how much otherwise respected people say that Ballarat won't be coming back and nor will Goulburn Valley BECAUSE STRANGER THINGS HAVE HAPPENED and just try claiming otherwise, go on do it, I once saw Glen Trifiro play a ball forward instead of sideways, so there's your proof). The trip back was spent watching the NSW grand final and Dimi Hatzimouratis' Sydney Olympic go down 2-1 after extra time via someone's phone. A mandatory stop in Wallan was the only break on the way home through the increasingly impenetrable darkness before reaching the outskirts of civilisation.
Next game - National Premier League national playoff series
The Victorian season now done and dusted, we move on to the National Premier League national series, which is being sponsored by someone or other, but since I didn't get any free gifts from said sponsor, they ain't getting a plug on here. Of course for some time it's been known that the Victorian winner (which is of course us, just in case you missed the news) would be playing the Tasmanian winner, and wouldn't you know it it's South Hobart again from the Apple Isle, a team we are quite familiar with, even if we haven't come face to face to face with for a couple of years.
South Hobart were last year's runners up in this competition, going down 2-0 to a Trifiro (who cares which one, it was Glen by the way) led Sydney United on their home turf at D'Arcy or Darcy Street, whatever it's called. It's a great little ground with a massive slope of some sort, and that's where we'll be playing this week also, rather than on the Federation's ground at KGV Park with the synthetic pitch.
South Hobart's strength is in its two forwards, Andy Brennan and Brayden Mann. Not only did they score a massive 57 goals between them this season (in 21 matches), they also finished in the top two of the league best and fairest (ex-South player Jake Vandermey finished third). If South Hobart has a weakness, it's in defense, because they do seem to cop at least one goal a game. And while Sam Kruijver is a good goalkeeper, goalkeepers in general don't enjoy a stellar reputation in Tasmania, it often being difficult to find a good one. (lame correction - Kruijver no longer plays for South Hobart - it's Kane Pierce in goals for them now, with thanks to Walter Pless).
As for the midfield, it'd be industrious and effective at the level they're playing at, but quite how it copes with a team of our calibre remains to be seen. When we were last down in Hobart back in 2011, with a team that was not as accomplished and battle hardened as this one is, South Hobart put up a good fight and probably should have score at least a goal or two, but nevertheless went down 5-0. That day they probably gave us too much time on the ball, and tried too much to play their own passing oriented game instead of perhaps trying to press
Of course this is mostly from stuff gleaned from Walter Pless' blog and memories of the times I've seen South Hobart play both on their visits here (also here and here), and our one trip there. They still have players that played for them in that 2011 fixture, while we've probably gone through about two entirely different squads since then, including Carl Recchia about 15 times by himself. (some folk looking at that match programme will also notice the names of Cameron Williams, who was attached to our under 20 squad for a little bit this year, and Kosta Kanakaris who played for Heidelberg's seniors this year on and off the bench).
They say that the winner of this mini-tournament will end up securing a place in the FFA Cup next year, as well befuddlement about who would host a possible semi-final in this playoff series and against who (check here for something vaguely official) but I'm more concerned with taking it one week at a time. But as Steve from Broady said to me the other day, Paul Mavroudis and sensible got together like a souv and tzatziki; and though my thoughts on the matter are if that the gyros meat has enough flavour you shouldn't need to drench it in garlic and yoghurt, I still get the point he was trying to make, his ability to construct metaphors and similes far exceeding mine
If you haven't booked your flights yet, well, I don't know what to say. No one can make you go, and you certainly shouldn't be forced to go down there if you have work, not enough or other commitments. That's just the deal life hands you sometimes. As for myself, I fancy I'll be seeing a fair few South fans at the Jetstar terminal on Saturday morning.
Just over a year left of Channel 31?
You may recall that not too long ago I mentioned that Channel 31 was in danger of not having its broadcasting license extended? Well, it turns out that Malcolm Turnbull, the Minister for Communications, has made the rather moronic decision to extend Channel 31's license to the end of 2015, before booting them off the spectrum so telecommunications companies can use that spectrum. According to Turnbull, community TV will end up on the internet, as if that's nearly the same thing as being part of what's available on broadcast television. So once again, I ask that you visit Commit to Community TV and add your name to the petition, or write to the minister personally.
Around the grounds
Under the skysigns they who have no arms
Have cleanest hands, and, as the heartless ghost
Alone's unhurt, so the blind man sees best. (Dylan Thomas)
Paisley Park and its collection of old men and magpies on a Saturday afternoon; Altona East down but not quite out, playing Sydenham Park who have been neither quite here nor there in 2014, and are now stuck in the middle waiting until next season. I watched the game from the far side, trying to catch whatever warmth I could, as dust clouds sprouted from where the balls bounced and players fell, staring out into the open field and wondering whether I've snookered myself into a never ending cycle of decrepit spectatorship, and also whether this stray golf ball nestled in the grass in front of me could double as an egg from some long lost species of bird. The home side starts brightly enough but is 1-0 and then 2-0 down, and there is no way out. What's worse is that the bread rolls on this last home game of the season are halfway to being half stale, and if that doesn't indicate some sort of impending doom than I don't know what does. Sydenham add one more for good measure, and Altona East are one wrong result from their end or from Sunbury's from going down a division. Maybe it'd be a good thing, a chance to reassess priorities, to reorganise and maybe somehow come back stronger. Maybe it'll be another nail in the club's coffin. Lot of maybes in that.
Sure, there were a lot of laughs. You probably couldn't hear them, the acoustics were so bad.