Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The Laurie Schwab Press Room

On Sunday I did something I hadn't done in a while: went to see my team play at a ground I hadn't visited before. I and about 800 others descended upon SS Anderson Reserve in Port Melbourne to see the Sharks play host to South Melbourne in what was a crucial match for both teams. The winners would be in the finals. In the event of a draw, Port would make it. If Gully lost (which they were never going to do) both teams could make it.

I arrived at half time in the U21 game in time to see an attacking South team dismantle the 10-men Sharks 4-1. Suffice it to say that the senior team, a few nervous moments aside, dominated and thrashed the hapless Port team 4-0, sending them down to 6th place and out of the finals (in light of Gully's win) and us to a home elimination final at home this Sunday at 5pm. If you want a match report, the unsurpassable Mavroudis gives his thoughts here.

Now I'm looking forward to Sunday (as long as I can get back from Ballarat in time - a long story).

The view from behind the Southern goal in the first half.
Note the substantial crowd on the western side of the ground.
It was a great afternoon, warm-to-hot in that just-wait-for-a-mild-breeze-to-run-through-you kind of way that Melbourne has in store for the unprepared. Even though I didn't partake, the fragrant odours from the canteen were tempting. (Instead I bought cashews through the fence.) The banter from behind the goals was fantastic. It varied, as usual, from the vulgar crudities to first-rate ironies that soccer fans seem to produce so easily. It was so good to be back with the South fans at an away game.
View from the northern end during the half-time break.
Aside from the eastern wing (patrolled by security to prevent spectators entering), passionate support surrounded the ground. 800 (possibly 1000) people presumed not to exist by some mainstream soccer writers cheered on their teams as if this was the only game in town.

Habitual Neos Osmos readers will know my beef with writers like the Age's Michael Lynch who insists that he doesn't write about VPL because there's little-to-no interest and even if there were substantial interest the competition is second tier and doesn't deserve coverage in a national newspaper (except when there's a 'crowd riot' or a betting scandal).

Travelling in the car after the game, listening to the ABC coverage of the grand finals of 5th, 6th and 7th-tier footy, the double standard was driven home. Typically, in the next day in the Age we could read reports of Upper Woop-Woop and their mighty footy Grand final come-back against Kickacrowalong, but a report on the weekend's most significant game of elite Victorian winter soccer (along with the classified results for the rest of the competitions) was nowhere to be seen.

It would do mainstream soccer writers well to come out to grounds like SS Anderson, especially when bigger games are on. But it would also do them well to get to Quarries Park or Campbell reserve from time to time. Some of their assumptions would be productively undermined and they might well be able to imagine an audience for articles on the VPL and other state leagues. They would see colour and excitement and not a little skill on the field. It would not be foolish to predict that 2 or 3 of Sunday's players were potential A-League recruits and a mainstream journalist covering the game would at least have the vital experience of having seen them play in the flesh (rather than having to phone around their contacts asking "Wot's 'e like then?").

One of the three memorial press boxes in Melbourne
named in honour of Laurie Schwab, at JJ Anderson.
But the most important reason for these journos to come out to SS Anderson would be for them to note the phenomenon that is "The Laurie Schwab Press Room". It is striking in its presence, a tiny, rust-coloured little room that nonetheless provides a place for those journos willing to cover the game and perhaps a reminder of the extent to which mainstream coverage of winter soccer in Victoria has dwindled to a level that is insulting at worst and derisory at best.

It also would present a suggestion to the thoughtful among them that this is what comes to those journos who cover our game properly: respect and remembrance.

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