Tuesday, November 19, 2019

New club Clarence Zebras sees the light of day

Photo:  The new club's badge [PlessPix]

Vale Hobart Zebras (aka Juventus, Hobart Juventus, Juventus Pioneer) (1956-2019).

Vale Clarence United (aka Phoenix, Eastern Suburbs) (1958-2019).

Long live Clarence Zebras!

That’s the story in black and white.

Hobart Juventus is no more after a long and illustrious history in the Tasmanian game.  The club produced some of the Tasmania’s finest talent and some players went on to represent Australia at senior and youth levels.

Clarence United is no more after being the dominant club on the eastern shore in past years.

They have had a horror couple of seasons and with dwindling support it was decided to merge with Hobart Zebras.

This new story, as with most stories, is one comprised of shades of grey and not black and white.

That story is that there is a new Tasmanian NPL club called Clarence Zebras.  This new club has much to do to equal the achievements of Juventus, for example.

It’s sad, really, that two clubs have become one and the State has, in effect, lost a club.  But that’s often what happens.  It’s happened in the past and will probably happen again.

Photo:  Former Clarence player Jeremy Price (left) and former Hobart Zebras player Riley Dillon show off the new strips [PlessPix]

Photo (L-R):  Maddie O'Brien, Danielle Kannegiesser and Caitlyn Maundrill model the new strips [PlessPix]

The new Clarence Zebras strip looks smart and congratulations must go to 11-year-old Lachie Pears, son of one of Hobart Juventus’s best defenders from the past, Bruce Pears, for coming up with the design.

Veto, the shirt manufacturer, also played a part in the design of the strip and the new club’s badge.

Clarence Zebras will have co-presidents to begin with in Nick Di Giovanni from Hobart Zebras and Ronnie Bolton from Clarence United.

At yesterday’s official launch of the new club at Wentworth Park, the co-presidents were both optimistic about the future.

Photo:  Co-president Ronnie Bolton (right) is interviewed by the media as co-president Nick Di Giovanni looks on [PlessPix]

“It’s a fantastic day and we’re looking forward to the future,” said Bolton.

“The process was relatively smooth and I thought it would take a lot longer, but there’s some good people behind this and the result is very good.”

The new club’s first training session is tonight [Tuesday] and Bolton did not know how many former Clarence players would be involved.

He said David Smith, who coached Hobart Zebras for the past season, would be the new club’s inaugural coach and playing matters were in his hands.

“This merger probably means survival for our club and former players and members,” Bolton said.

“When you’re at the bottom of the ladder for a while it’s very difficult to attract players and sponsors and it costs a lot of money to be in the top league so, for us, it was a no-brainer not to do this.

“If you’ve got the right people in the right places, players will come.  They may not stay, but at least they’ll come and have a look and potentially we could get some quality players.”

Bolton said the new club would talk to the Clarence Council about improving facilities.

“We got plans that we hope will come to fruition, but it may just take a while,” he said.

Money would need to be sourced from sponsors, the council, government and even the sport’s administrative body.

Photo:  Clarence Zebras co-president Nick Di Giovanni [PlessPix]

“It’s a great day and very exciting,” said Nick Di Giovanni.  “Everyone’s done a great job and we’ve moved quicker than I thought we would.

“With so much work by both committees, it’s come off really great.

“It was too and fro for a lot of meetings getting the colours right and the designs right, which we did in the end.

“They look magnificent and the committee saw them only last Thursday and everyone was unanimous in saying they look fantastic.

“It’s a new era with new colours and new emblem and at least we’ll look good to start off with.  Hopefully, everyone likes what they see.

“It’s going to be different and it may take a while [to achieve success], but it’s a long-term plan and not a short-term plan and you’ll see a lot of youth development through David [Smith] this year.

“The club expects to have four or five hundred players this coming season and we’ve got to start to do things differently for the future.

“We’ve got to look at how this ground and these facilities will be ten years down the track for the people of the Eastern Shore.

“Different times ahead, but I think they’ll be very enjoyable.

“The development of this ground will make the Eastern Shore something special.  We’re looking at something good for the future.”

Photo:  David Smith is the coach of the new club [PlessPix]

New coach David Smith said he was excited by the merger and he was looking forward to the coming season.

He said some Zebras players had moved on to other clubs or interstate and overseas and he was looking at Clarence players who might be good enough for the new senior side.

“We’ll have a couple of open sessions in the next few weeks, starting tonight, and we’ve invited 40 or 50 players and we’ll see what we end up with,” Smith said.

“We’ve got to front three senior teams and an under-18s and so we’ll see how we go.

“If you want to play for us, you’ve got to play for the right reasons because there’s no money, really.

“We’ll try and look after a few people but at the end of the day we’re all in the same boat here, with a little bit of training money and expenses, but we’re not a cashed-up club.”

Photo:  Players, committee members and sponsors of the new club at yesterday's official launch [PlessPix]

Smith said the club could not compete financially with the likes of Olympia Warriors or Glenorchy Knights in terms of paying players.

The key for the new club was to appoint the right coaches and administrators and to follow the right principles to take the club forward.

“You’ve got to set the bar as high as you can,” Smith said.

“We want it to be young, aggressive and dynamic and we’ve got to take a few risks and we’ll learn a lot of hard lessons during the year doing it.”

Smith said he was looking to bring youth through.

He said the club had three or four young goalkeepers and the oldest would be only 18 or 19.

“They’re the sort of challenges we’ll have moving forward but the long-term aim is to produce our own players because that’s what it’s about.

“We’ve got to be self sufficient and we can’t continue to bring in outside players every year.

“We’ve got to build them and get them to stay here and a youth programme is more important than anything else.”

Friday, November 15, 2019

It's high time the Socceroos played in Tasmania

Australia’s 1-0 away win over Jordan this morning in the Asian World Cup Qualifying Group B almost certainly puts the Socceroos into the next round of qualifying.

Australia top Group B after four games with a perfect tally of 12 points, 5 points ahead of second-placed Kuwait and 5 ahead of third-ranked Jordan.

There are four games remaining, only one of which, against Nepal, is away.

Our home games are against Kuwait on 26 March next year, against Chinese Taipei on 4 June, and against Jordan on 9 June.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Football Federation Australia scheduled one of those Socceroos home games in Tasmania?

There is nothing to lose as qualification for the next stage is almost certain, and it would be a wonderful gift to our ‘forgotten’ State.

The Socceroos’ home game against Nepal should have been in Tasmania rather than in Canberra.

A win was a foregone conclusion and it would have provided Tasmanian fans with an opportunity to watch the Socceroos in action in a competitive match.

Canberrans can drive to Sydney to watch the Socceroos play.

Tasmanians must fly to the Mainland if they wish to see our national team play.

Tasmania has hosted visiting teams such as Chelsea, Cardiff City, Sunderland, an English FA XI, Nagoya Grampus Eight and the Chinese national team.

Those games spanned the decades from the 1960s to the 1990s.

It’s about time Tasmania was granted a serious competitive match involving our national team.

The game needs a boost and a competitive World Cup qualifier would provide just the tonic.

The inclusion in the Socceroos squad  -  not necessarily the starting XI  -  of a Tasmanian player or two would be a real crowd puller and not just a token gesture.

Nathan Atkinson and Josh Hope, who play in the A-League, could readily be included in the squad.

And don’t let FFA say we haven’t got a rectangular stadium.

Blundstone Arena in the south, or the University of Tasmania Stadium in Launceston, would be more than acceptable venues.

Football Tasmania should lobby FFA for Tasmania to host one of the Socceroos’ remaining three games in Group B.

Hockey attracts huge interest in Tasmania whenever the Australian team plays international teams in Hobart.

Football is the world game and the Socceroos playing a competitive game in Tasmania would be sure to attract huge support amongst locals.

Bob Gordon and Matt Bulkeley, please at least try and make it happen.