Monday, 27 March 2017

This Year's Draft of the Statistical History

Last week I uploaded a pdf version of the Statistical History of Victorian Football, which can be downloaded from here:

Statistical History of Victorian Football - Draft 8

I thought I'd explain the layout and content a little. All the final league tables, and scores of Grand Finals, Finals and any games relating to promotion and relegation are on the left of the page. In a column down the right there are details (date, venue, referee, score, scorers and line-ups with substitutions) of top flight Grand Finals and Dockerty Cup Finals. Next will come scores and scorers of any other Cup Finals that year. Finding details like for the Grand Finals and Dockerty Cup Finals for all these games would be impossible, I'd estimate there would be less than 10% of that information available, so I'm just running with score and scorers.

The next information I'm looking to record are the winners of the league best and fairest awards and top goalscorers for each division. Then comes a list of reserves league champions. In the years of the District Leagues I include a list of champions in that league above the list of reserves league champions. To include District League tables would add more pages to the document than is necessary, a line has to be drawn somewhere.

I've only used pictures to fill in gaps where there was no text. The use of pictures has been along these lines: Team shot of league champions or Cup winners. Player pic of best and fairest winners, top goalscorers or member of league championship or Cup winning team. I'm not looking at adding pictures where it would mean adding another page for that year.

At the end, a month or so ago, I've added a National Competitions section using the same format, tables on the left, details on the right. In this section the tables and details on the page may not necessarily be from the same year. In future I'll probably include details of NSL and A-League Grand Finals, though that information is widely available elsewhere.

Another section I'm looking at adding between the Victorian and National sections would be a couple of pages to list non-playing awards like VPL/NPL coach of the year. There I would also like to add a list of the various media awards for the VSL/VPL over the years as issued by Soccer News, Soccer Action, Soccer Star and Australian and British Soccer Weekly.

Since that last draft I've corrected the wrong table being cut and pasted into the box for the First Division in 1969 as well as the scores in the 1984 and 1989 State League Cup Finals.

From what I was seeking here I've found the referee of the 1991 Dockerty Cup Final and the reserves champions of Provisional League Division One South East 2002. The rest still remains unknown. Please share the document with anyone you know who may be able to assist in filling in the gaps. There must be players out there who recall playing in some of those 1980's Cup Finals where only the only record the VSF kept was the name of the winner inscribed on the trophy. There must be old team managers and club secretaries with a collection of VSF Yearbooks or memos from the VSF with final tables (mainly reserves missing now) or their own records of Cup finals. I'm really hoping that someone somewhere has a list of award winners, top scorers and reserves champions for 2002 seeing as the FFV can't open that year's Annual Report.

It would be nice to be able to work out which players have played in the most Dockerty Cup Finals, or had the most wins in it. Referees are people too, it would be nice to know which ones have had the honour of reffing the most Dockerty Cup Finals. Surely every senior and reserve team that won a championship deserves having that feat noted somewhere for posterity? Would anyone expect the AFL to have a gap in it's list of Brownlow Medal winners? Then where are the 2002 State and Provisional League best and fairest winners and top goalscorers?

If we can get most of what I listed in that blog post, I can just make up some of the pre-War stuff and we're finished. Well, I wouldn't do that but a few asterisks could tie things up.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Moorabbin Thirds Stories

This is yet another blog entry that stems from the Why I've Arrived Where I'm At piece from a few weeks. back.

I consider myself to have been lucky in arriving at the club culture I fell into at Moorabbin City, especially compared to what I've observed in my latter years involved in the game. Now players have always moved club, but when kids aged 19-20 have had four clubs in a two year time span, something is wrong.

Being a late arrival into the competitive playing ranks, I was more than satisfied to play third team/Sunday League football at Moorabbin. The reserves were on their way to winning a second successive championship, and I never thought breaking into that squad was likely.

Player movement was not as great then, and older players were more inclined to settle at a club towards the end of their careers. Reserves teams were very much that, not as focused on being youth sides as they are now. This meant that in my time I saw many players move down from playing first team football, to the reserves and then finally the thirds. I'm not sure this happens as much these days.

The third team was usually the core of the senior clubs supporter base as well, as well as generally containing around half of the committee as well. A true reserves side also usually provides a lot of support for the first team, whereas we now see many youth/reserve players leave straight after their own game.

When I arrived pretty much all the thirds players went by a nickname and I soon picked up my own. As the youngest player in the team I was linked with the second youngest in the side. That was Eric Igoe, who had been nicknamed "Yogi Bear" (later just "Bear") due to his hulking physique. So I was given the Yogi Bear's offsider's name - "Boo Boo". Thankfully this was quickly reduced to just the single Boo.

There were a couple of memorable incidents involving Bear at games. Doing it tough away at Boronia one day, several goals down already, he had enough when the referee awarded a penalty against us. "Why don't you take it for them as well, you cheating cunt?' he uttered, and with that we were down to ten.

His best effort came against one of the University sides. His opponent (probably on the losing side, they were never much good) didn't take kindly to Bear's marking and chat and informed his apparent social inferior "I'm at Uni, one day I'll be your boss!" Bear set him straight with "Well, I'm an apprentice bricklayer and one day I'll shove a trowel up your arse!'

Some nicknames were based on physical appearances. There was "Buddha" for Sam Laverty and "Fergie" (in honour of the red-headed Duchess) for his brother John. Andy Loney was "Squiggle" after the Mr Squiggle children's tv puppet with the massive pencil for a nose. Peter Crawford was "Little Pete" due to his diminutive stature. Mark Feehan was "Max" for Max Headroom, the MTV character. Nowadays it's probably seems racist but Trevor Bishop acquired "Shaka" when the Shaka Zulu tv mini-series was a massive hit at the time.

Irishman Richard Robinson naturally became "Spud", with Gerard Robinson being "Mash". Little cousin Davie Swords therefore became "Chip". There were a couple of oft-told stories about Spud. One Sunday morning I arrived to see him despondent, head in his hands. When I asked what's wrong he pointed to the pitch. Lining the pitch the morning after a pub crawl following the senior game the day before was not advisable. Neither is trying to scuff out a line with your foot and having another go. Repeat this process three or four times and you get what looks like a group of snakes intertwined. Luckily the ref let us play with some cones to mark the true line down that side of the pitch.

As coach, Spud's team talks were legendary. The best came in a crowded room at Bailey Reserve one day. The club bookie, Brian Morris, raised funds by offering 5-1 on correct score bets for first team games. Due to the frequent use of profanities in his talks, on this occasion bets were being taken as to how many swear words Spud would utter during his oration. All bets were null and void when he twigged as to what one corner of the room was counting as it cracked the thirty mark. A tirade was launched with more fucks than anyone could ever keep up with, and he was right, we were all cunts.

There was another tale that a penalty he took against Kew Deaf went so high and wide of the mark it knocked a kid off a swing in the playground behind. That one was more fiction than fact I think, but he did miss the pen.

While I'm on Kew Deaf, there was another Irishman, Mark "Bap" Withers that had an interesting encounter against them. After a crude tackle on one our opponents, the bloke got up and remonstrated with Bap, become more aggressive with his gesticulating. Bap turned around and asked another "What's his fucking problem, I said I was fucken sorry!"

More nicknames: Stirling Sainty was "Seagull", because he was quick to pounce on a chip I suspect. Victor Holder was "Two-Stroke", after the motors found in Victa lawnmowers. Ed Atkin was "Job" because Ed Job was just too good to pass up. Mick O'Neill had picked up "Suck" I believe due to the way he had fallen under the thumb of his missus. John Bris was "Phar Lap" because of his running prowess before becoming just "Brisi". Craig Forsberg was "Double" because inbred Tasmanians are alleged to have two heads. 

Mark Mangan picked up the "Riddler" moniker after a suit he wore which resembled that of the villain from Batman. Paul Morgan was "Woody" after one of the Bay City Rollers. Steve Martin was "Jerk" in respect of one of the movies of another Steve Martin. Steve Seizis was "Alexi" 'cos he looked like Alexi Sayle. Mark Crooke was "Illi" because his temperament matched that of Ille Nastase.

Dave O'Gara's initials meant he was "Dog", not just because he owned a couple. He had a great big Irish Wolfhound, which caused confusion on a foggy winter's night back in my first year at the club 1990. I wasn't driving yet, and my mum had just arrived to collect me from training. As I approached the car, the police arrived and called me over. They informed me that there were reports an escaped lion from the circus being staged down the road at the grounds of Murrumbeena High School had been sighted in the vicinity of the ground, and that I should go back in and inform those left inside to be careful. I didn't, seriously I'd have been slaughtered going back in telling that story. My conscience was spared the guilt of anyone being mauled to death when it emerged that there was no lion missing, a resident simply jumped to conclusions when spying Dog's dog through the blanket of fog.

One legendary character was "Mick the Barman". Mick Bowers was recruited to the thirds via being a barman at the pub the lads stopped to meet in before departing interstate on an end of season trip. An Ocker Aussie, he got talking with the boys and said he wouldn't mind giving soccer a go. He was, let's say, very raw but a very nice guy. Indeed during one game he shook his opponents hand at half-time, thanking him for the half and expressing how he looked forward to meeting him again after the break. We were playing Dandenong, a side loaded with VSL and State team stars from the 1970's, hard-nosed Scots who genuinely wondered if he was taking the piss out of them. He wasn't, he was just like that.

Another instance of that came in what should have been his greatest triumph, when stunning everyone by putting the ball into the top corner from out of nowhere (and thirty yards) on a mudheap at Doveton. For some reason, the ref disallowed the goal, and as we went in to remonstrate it was Mick the Barman who broke it up with "Now, now fellas, the referee is always right".

Doveton was where Tony Wynton picked up his nickname. A former first team player, he was nearing the end of his career, his long 1970's rockstar hair having more than a bit of grey in it. He was having a battle in midfield with a much younger opponent, and after one torrid tussle that opponent's mother called out from over the fence "Leave him alone you paedophile!" And thus for his remaining playing days he was known as "Pedda".

Good, good days.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Elitist But Not Elite

In the week FFA Technical Director Eric Abrams was critical of the NPL it's opportune to take a look back how Victoria came to adopt such a flawed version of it.

The part of the Why I've Arrived Where I'm At piece that seems to have struck a chord with many was the passion, dedication and loyalty of those who get deeply involved with a club. While it may have resonated with football people who have been in similar situations, it probably wouldn't be understood by the architects of the FFV's original NPLV model.

That model was an attempt to supplant the existing VPL club structure with a zonal franchise model. The first push in this direction was the old Summer League, which later became the Victorian Champions League. These leagues were only able to get off the ground as junior competitions, with the senior component dropped due to lack of interest in anyone willing to establish and run these teams.

People volunteer at clubs for all sorts of reasons. It may be a link to a particular ethnic community, it may be because they live within a goalkeeper's clearance of the home ground. Some will stay on at a club in various roles after playing, others are drawn by family members being involved. Whatever the reason, most are loyal to their club and will only ever perform the duties they do at one club during their lifetime.

It's an indictment on those running the game at the time that they thought it possible that there'd be a groundswell of people willing to set-up and run new zonal clubs just because they would be part of some kind of "elite" pathway. The lure of being labelled "elite" is not enough to sway your typical club volunteer to shift their loyalties. It may induce a parent looking to give their child's career a "leg-up", but that alone would not secure the numbers and dollars required to get the venture up and running.

The FFV would have preferred to have installed a zonal set-up when introducing the NPLV a few years later, but settled for a system in which existing clubs would be chosen to represent the respective zones. Again it's staggering to believe that supposed football people thought this would be a workable idea.

With the new top tier to be a closed league, the "elite" clubs would sit above subservient "community" clubs in their zone. Even with the obvious issues posed by the ethnic backgrounds of many clubs, it was a concept that would alienate all those not included in the new league. How could you expect clubs that may have been rivals to another for years that they would now have to be a feeder team for that club? That they could no longer aspire to promotion back to the top tier?

So not surprisingly, there was rebellion. Clubs took the FFV to court to have their own version of the NPLV implemented, and the resulting compromise has largely been a disaster. Instead of an actual elite competition we have a watered-down, bloated debacle. Have kids with genuine talent been priced out of the game by the significant fees required to be involved? Will extended seasons involving plenty of travel see others burnt out before they are even ready for senior football?

The compromise saw a two-tier NPL established, to include any club (from the existing VPL and State League Division One) which may have had a grievance at being left out. Regional teams were included, in a manner which has not enhanced their future prosperity. Somehow, after a few years, Nunawading City were added despite having slid down the State League.

Looking at the areas of the regional teams, the first thing one may wonder is how is it that Gippsland could have a team in the NSL but not a spot in a bloated NPLV? Similarly in suburban Melbourne, why not a team for the Frankston/Mornington Peninsula area? That is because of the loyalty factor. In both areas there are several clubs that could make a claim to be number one in the region. This means those involved would prefer to stand by their club, whatever league it plays in, rather than ditch it to be a part of a new representative team. Also, in the case of the La Trobe Valley, officials there were concerned about the financial viability of the venture, fears which were warranted given the issues later faced by some of the regional clubs.

I understand why the FFV felt it needed to add the regional teams upon the league's inception, but feel it has lead to them being lame ducks. Perhaps a better way of introducing them would have been to include them in only the junior competitions to begin with. After three or four years, when hopefully the inaugural Under 16's and Under 18's may be ready for senior football they could then have been added to the second tier. Allow them an extra visa spot to alleviate the issue of being able to attract players from Melbourne. Maybe a mini-tournament amongst themselves in the interim to develop the best older talent. They were included from the beginning to make a statement, but will this prove to be detrimental in the long term?

As it is, the best local players are not necessarily playing for the local country NPL side. The best players can enjoy the game winning more (and earning more) in their local competition than by turning out (with the associated travel) for their local NPL outfit. FC Bendigo became Bendigo City and now Ballarat Red Devils have been replaced with Ballarat City. There is still no La Trobe Valley representation. Have the benefits for these areas being included in the NPL been diminished by the whole thing being poorly implemented?

Elsewhere, the second tier has been particularly lopsided. With no prospect of relegation meaningless games clog the two divisions. Nunawading were introduced and won just one game in two years. Does the paying public want to watch glorified training sessions? Probably not. Luckily junior fees are quite high so that gate takings don't have to fund the whole scheme. Now that promotion/relegation is on the agenda even the Mahoneys Road Philosophers are splashing some cash to attract players.

In terms of best practise for juniors, with the most development coming from the best playing against the best, we have gone from a 12 team Superleague back in the day to 32 teams spread over two divisions. Divided between East and West, clubs only play the teams from the opposite side once a season. So the best team in one division plays the best team in the other once, it's a long way removed from what "Best v Best" really should be. It is so watered down it should be sponsored by Yarra Valley Water not PlayStation 4.

It should not surprise that with the whole concept being poorly executed it is hardly attracting plaudits.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Frankston's Soccer News Treasure Chest

A week or so ago I was exploring new avenues at finding more details from football's past, and finally got a promising result when I entered "Victorian soccer" into a search box on the Frankston Library website.

Item 3 looked interesting enough, and examining it's contents revealed that it did indeed contain gold.

                                              (Click on images to enlarge)

Mr Albert Piggott was a great man. He gave the Library a collection of Soccer News magazines, Frankston match programmes, newspaper clippings and scraps of paper with the Frankston team's line-ups for matches.

I've paid one quick visit to look at the collection, and will need more time to go through it. All I had time to do was exhaust the photocopier in copying 10 issues of Soccer News and 2 match programmes for scanning and uploading to the blog.

The 1951 Soccer News issues are from an exciting time with an English F.A. side touring the country, it was as big time as soccer got back then. The rise of the "New Australian" clubs was about to begin, with J.U.S.T. and Juventus knocking on the door of the First Division and George Cross, Polonia, White Eagles, Olympic and Macedonians all in existence.

The new issues added are as follows:


May 9

May 19

May 26

June 16

June 23

June 30

July 14

July 28

August 11


May 24

The match programmes are:


Frankston v Moorabbin City - August 4

Frankston v Park Rangers - August 18

The Soccer News issues have been added to the Soccer News Archive.

The match programmes are being housed in the History Documents section.

All the videos I've converted lately have now been uploaded to YouTube and can be found in the Video Archive section as well.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Why I've Arrived Where I'm At

It was not until I was seventeen years of age that I played my first ever competitive game of football. The chief reason for this would probably be my father developing lung cancer in the early 1980's. At the age I may have been introduced to junior sport, there were other things going on. I spent equal amounts of time kicking a footy or a soccer ball around in the backyard, and took part in lunchtime soccer games at primary school.

Competitive sport at East Oakleigh Primary School began in Grade 6, and I tried out for the soccer team but was placed in the "B" squad, not quite near the level of the kids that had undergone coaching and were already picking up Soccer Action Hat Trick Certificates. The "B" team ended up not going ahead because there were not enough numbers to field the Aussie Rules team unless the Soccer B squad was conscripted.

This fork in the road actually led me to play weekend club footy for Oakleigh Youth Club six years before I would first play organised soccer. I must have been okay enough at the school footy for someone to suggest I go down to the club, and it fitted it well enough with my now widowed mother's work schedule for it to happen. While I was a prominent enough member of the school team, we weren't much chop. At Oakleigh Youth I was very much a fringe player, but we were sensational, losing only one game all season on the way to capturing the Grand Final.

When moving up to secondary school, at Salesian College Chadstone, I didn't try out for either footy or soccer teams, opting for table tennis which I was handy enough at. The senior soccer team there had a State Championship pedigree, and I knew I hadn't done anything to bridge the gap between myself and the kids already excelling at junior clubs. I assumed the footy team would be strong as well, and thought I would be on the periphery there as I had been at Oakleigh Youth Under 12's.

I'd adopted Tottenham Hotspur as my club of choice, on the back of their F.A. Cup Final success earlier in the decade. I followed them through the combination of old Shoot! magazines and the results in Monday's newspaper.  Then came Saturday nights staying up to listen to the marvelous sports coverage on the BBC World Service.

Locally I followed Melbourne Croatia from nearly as afar as Spurs. I had vague memories of attending a game in the late 1970's at Olympic Park No.2, where I asked if we could come back when the greyhounds were on. Reading newspapers and watching the SBS/ABC television coverage of the NSL was the limit of my involvement.

So when I'd started Year 12 some family friends I had backyard kickabouts with (they were a little younger) suggested I should go down to Bailey Reserve (where they played at East Bentleigh juniors) as they heard there was a shortage of players in a senior team there. Their family friend, Justin Scrobogna, was a brilliant junior soon to break in to the Moorabbin City senior team. He may have heard of or been one of the reserves players asked to back up on Sunday for the Thirds and told them, whatever it was they told me so on a Tuesday night in 1990 I turned up at Bailey Reserve. I trained with the reserves that night, then the Thirds on Thursday when they showed up. On the Sunday I started in central midfield against Monbulk and we won 2-0.

Before long I was playing two games a week, as I also joined the Salesian College Senior B team. After contributing a few things for the club magazine, Moorabbin Matchday, I was soon asked to edit it. Which of course, meant writing it all. Did it on an old fashioned typewriter (google it if you have to). The following year I began attending more senior games, and after that I was club linesman every week for the reserves. I soon became familiar with putting nets up, and taking them down. Got covered in lime loading and using old school line marking machines. There was a bit of canteen work, and a few relief stints manning the entrance gate. Club functions saw more bartending work.

The club began to climb the leagues, eventually rising from State League Division Three all the way to the Victorian Premier League. There was a year where we played out of Gaelic Park in Keysborough, where heavy wooden goalposts had to be lifted in and out of place every matchday. That was the result Bailey Reserve not being up to higher league standard, and the new ground at Kingston Heath not yet ready. The first years at Kingston Heath saw times where I'd mark and put nets on all four pitches in a single morning. The clubrooms and dressing rooms were portable buildings, before the current structures at the site were erected. Indeed work on the permanent buildings had barely commenced when Moorabbin City folded at the end of 1998.

The factors for that were numerous and I won't go in to them now. The end result was a way of life had come to an end. I didn't realise how loyal I had become until it ended. I would continue to play with the Moorabbin Thirds, as we became Moorabbin Old Boys playing out of Gardiner's Creek Reserve. More than a few Moorabbin players moved there as well, joining the then Old Scotch Waverley (previously Waverley City, now Eastern Lions). I went to a few games, but did not want any further involvement. I was a Moorabbin person, and that's all I wanted to be. I'd expected to be Moorabbin City for life, and didn't want to be anything else.

Now football solely centred around a Thursday night kickaround for training and a game on Sunday with the Thirds. I started going to more NSL games, mainly to Somers Street to watch the now Melbourne Knights, but also to Optus Oval and Olympic Park for Carlton SC matches as well as Bob Jane Stadium to see South Melbourne.

Then in early 2001 I got a call from from former Moorabbin president and secretary Sam Laverty. He'd been asked for assistance in assembling a new squad by Helmut Kalitizki, who had taken over as president of Richmond following their relegation to State League Division Two. They'd just played a practise game and the players weren't particularly well looked after on a scorching summer's day and I was clearly the go to man when water bottles needed filling.

I would say the main reason I responded to the call was a personal loyalty to Sam. He had minor involvement at Old Scotch Waverley after Moorabbin City folded, but never pushed me to follow. Now he was actually asking me to help out, I couldn't say no.

For the first season I only attended match days, being team manager for the first team. The next year that would evolve into training nights. Establishing and "editing" the Richmond Alemannia Magazine followed. Managing the first team became managing the reserves as well. Kits were washed, week in, week out. You never forget how to put a net up properly. Kevin Bartlett Reserve being alongside the Monash Freeway led to some challenging ball retrieval work.

Eventually Richmond would also start the climb back up the leagues, also rising all the way to the Victorian Premier League. This would in part lead to the inner conflict which now sees me follow the game as a distant observer, rather than a passionate participant. Even after a few years, I still considered myself a Moorabbin person. Moorabbin Old Boys played one season at Richmond before getting too old (I was ten years younger than most). The rise of Richmond meant an ever increasing workload, and it came to the point where for the Old Boys to continue I'd have play a greater part than simply turning up to play and that was not a viable option so playing retirement had arrived.

There was the rise of the internet. Participating on local forums, as someone from a club lacking a huge supporter base , I sort of became the face/spokesman of the club to many. Which was odd, as deep down I still felt I was more Moorabin than Richmond. The rise of the internet, naturally, also soon saw me running a club website.

Success brings great times, so soon that feeling began to change. As time passed it was only natural I would become more comfortable being a "Richmond person". The end of the NSL saw Melbourne Knights join the VPL. A year later, Richmond were promoted to the VPL. When we would come to clash, my loyalty went one way and it was the way of the team in white. Now I was truly Richmond.

At the same time, the A-League had come into existence. Melbourne had a new team, Melbourne Victory. I went to a few games when I wasn't busy with Richmond, and naturally wanted them to beat the interstate scum. There was no way I could muster any real passion for them though, and snobbishly I'd question the motives of many who overtly had that passion. I mean, this was not a club they had grown up following, or had began following in a family tradition. They hadn't played for them as kids, it all seemed a bit cheap.

Matchdays would involve arriving at the club by 4pm on a Friday afternoon to put the nets up and flags out and put ice in the freezer. I had a huge set of keys, some for the gates that were used to turn an open park into an enclosed venue. There'd be checking that the away rooms were tidy. Then setting up the home room by bringing in the kit, pumping up the balls for the warm up. Drinks (2 trays of water bottles, one for each team, two five litre cordial mixes - one orange, one apple raspberry - and a twenty litre Powerade/Gatorade mix) would be prepared, as well as a supply of lollies laid out to keep the players buzzing. Fill in some team sheets, hand out some shirts. Give the referees the match balls. Copy the team sheets for any media in attendance. Get the players to put their valuables in a case and lock it away for safekeeping. Make sure there were whiteboard markers and magnets at the coaches disposal.  Find some new socks for the players that needed them every second week. Pour out 30 cups (10 of each flavour) just before half-time time. Take notes for Goal! Weekly and club website match reports. Watching the first half of the seniors was problematic because I had to clean up after the reserves/Under 21's to get ready for half-time (we only had one room to share). As a result the second half of the senior game was usually the highlight of the week. Then it was deal with the match officials after the game faxing results in and what not. Load the washing into the car, put the drinks containers back in the coolroom. Clean out the home and away team dressing rooms forn the juniors on the weekend, take down the nets and bring in the flags. Then have a chat with whoever was left in the clubrooms after 11pm.

At the end of 2012, after eleven years at Richmond, I left the club. It was a case of personal loyalty exceeding loyalty to an institution. Helmut had been forced into a situation which saw him step down as president, and I made it clear to people remaining on the committee they would be wasting their time asking me to continue in my roles. At that stage, I was as relieved to have a break as I was sad. A small club overachieving doesn't happen easily.

Before the start of the following season came a point when I would be more than not involved in the club, but where the term estranged would be more apt. This began to take place when one of the committeemen responsible for ousting Helmut appointed himself senior coach. It became official when the club signed Josh Groenewald.

The night Semir Sivic had his leg broken is without doubt my worst moment in football. Worse than losing any game, even a Grand Final. Worse than Moorabbin City folding, and that had randomly brought me to tears on one occasion. I had been a part of a dressing room, where if for some inexplicable reason Josh had been brought into as a new signing, every person to a man would have walked out. That he had been signed by the same people who brought Semir's brother Enes back to the club marked that the club was no longer the same. Not knowing the history there was something I could not abide. There was also the sense that in signing players who refused to talk to each the new regime had no idea what it was doing and everything the club had achieved in recent years was about to go to waste.

In one way the estrangement was not permanent, but in another it was. The week after the coach was sacked after four straight defeats culminating in a 2-7 loss at home I received a phone call from the new president, Wolfgang Smoger. My replacement as team manager had to return overseas for a month, there was Dockerty Cup game that night, and I was asked to fill-in. I said I would, then called Helmut to let him know that I was going back, to see if he'd object to what I'd agreed to. He didn't. Grant Brebner was then appointed coach, and I stayed on until the end of the season assisting the team manager upon his return from overseas. It was not the same though, it never could be, a bond had been broken and at the end of the year I declined requests to continue.

Long before the club's eventual relegation that year, the whole situation would just make me sad. I'd see Josh in the changing room and feel bad for having hated him. Did I still hate him? Not really. No. Did I approve of him being at the club? No, but he was. We wouldn't have spoken much. I assumed that he'd known what I thought of what had happened, but maybe he didn't. Either way, it was not an area to go to.

I now go to games and hope the team does well, but the life or death nature is no more. Where there was certainty, now there is conflict. I still feel "Richmond", but no longer am. I feel I would be cheating to label myself a Knights fan when I compare myself to genuine die-hards. Part of me now feels like a neutral at games even when I'm there to support a particular team. This may also stem from going to watch the former Richmond boys at their new clubs. There's also plenty of people I respect at other clubs, which makes it hard to hate. More than anything though, it's because when you've been in the inner sanctum so deeply, and then step out, you end up an outsider just looking in.

It's for that reason that this blog is more about the past than the present and future than intended when I started it. I just don't enjoy going to games as much as I used to, and still have concerns about the direction the game is heading. Since I first started to do some research as Moorabbin began to plan to prepare for it's 50th anniversary, compiling a history of the local game has been a project on the backburner, now you know why it's at the forefront of my endeavours.