Sunday, December 25, 2022

Merry Christmas and happy New Year

 Photo:  The new artificial surface at KGV Park is looking superb. [PlessPix]  

I wish all football followers  -  players, officials, referees, administrators, volunteers, club members, media and fans  -  a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

All the best of health, fortune and success in 2023.

I am not on social media, but many people have made me aware of the numerous  congratulatory comments that have been made in regard to my induction into the Football Australia Hall of Fame on 12 November 2022. 

I am deeply humbled by the honour, and by the comments from my former students, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, family members and people involved in the game here, interstate and overseas.

Never in a million years did I expect it.

I hope the 2023 season will be a beauty and that the local game will rise to new heights.

I can hardly wait for the new season to start.

The early signs, such as the refurbishment of KGV Park, are promising.

The new artificial pitch is in place and is looking superb, while the new floodlights look like the real thing at last.

The best of luck to every club, and to everyone involved, in whatever capacity, in our beautiful game.

Photo:  One of the new floodlight towers at KGV Park. [PlessPix]
Photo:  I can hardly wait for the first night game at KGV Park next season. [PlessPix]

Photo:  Let there be light at KGV Park. [PlessPix]

Friday, December 2, 2022

Shackcloth new Eagles coach after 20 years at the club and his first aim is to complete a hat-trick of titles

Photo:  New Eagles coach Adam Shackcloth (left) with the hugely successful previous coach of the past two seasons, Tommy Fotak, who is now the senior technical director at the club. [PlessPix] 

New Town White Eagles have appointed Adam Shackcloth as their senior coach for the 2023 Southern Championship season.

He replaces Tommy Fotak, who coached Eagles to the Southern Championship league title for two years in succession.

Eagles were the champions in 2021 and 2022.

Fotak becomes the club’s technical director for the senior program.

Photo (L-R):  Eagles' new coaching team of Adam Shackcloth. Wade Savage. Tommy Fotak, Jack Harrison and Nick Taylor. [PlessPix] 

Shackcloth, who was Fotak’s assistant in those two title-winning seasons, will have Wade Savage and Jack Harrison as his assistants.

The technical director for the club’s junior programs will be Nick Taylor.

The facilities rebuilding program at Clare Street is progressing well and will be completed in time for the start of the 2023 season.

Shackcloth is looking forward to being senior coach.

“It’s always a challenge when you’re going for three in a row and you all of a sudden become the hunted,” Shackcloth said.

“We’re looking forward to seeing what 2023 brings.”

Photo:  A story I wrote about Adam Shackcloth making his Eagles' senior debut in The Mercury in 2006.  

Shackcloth, 34, is a former Eagles player who made his debut with the club in 2006.

He said it was too early to say if the club would recruit new players for the 2023 season.

“We probably won’t know until pre-season in January, but what we do know is that when you have success it brings people along,” Shackcloth said.

“Our doors are always open and year after year we’ve seen new talent come in.

“I expect the same next season.”

Photo:  The coaching staff in one of the new dressing rooms. [PlessPix] 

Shackcloth said Eagles’ ultimate aim was to play at the highest level possible and did not rule out promotion to the NPL Tasmania top-flight competition in years to come.

“That’s been our focus for the past three or four years now and we’ll continue to develop in areas that Football Tasmania is asking for in terms of NPL criteria and we’ll keep chipping away at that,” he said.

“But, at the end of the day, for us, we just want to make sure that we’re a place where anyone can play football and, if that ends up being at State League level, which we aim to achieve., then excellent, because we want to have that top-flight success again.

“But, we also want to make sure there’s somewhere for the kids to play and to feel at home so that they don’t hop, jump and skip clubs.”

Photo:  Work in progress at Clare Street. [PlessPix] 

Shackcloth is delighted with the way facilities are being improved at Clare Street.

“This is my twentieth year at the club and it’s the first time I’ve seen carpet in the change rooms,” he said.

“I’ve got to put that down as a win, and it’s a credit to the committee working with the State and Federal Governments to get the funding we needed to get this project off the ground.

“The new facilities are going to make a huge difference to morale and the welcoming factor when people do come to the ground because it’s not just those old raggedy rooms that have been there since the year dot.

“They are now warm and inviting and it may bring more players but certainly a better environment.”

Photo:  Clare Street, the home of New Town White Eagles. [PlessPix]  

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The tail really is wagging the dog - a tale of two football venues

Photo:  KGV Park with the new artificial pitch. [Photo courtesy of David Smith] 

Work is progressing well at KGV Park.

The new artificial pitch has been laid and looks superb.

The new lights should be erected and in operation in a couple of weeks.

I imagine work on the grandstand and the antiquated change rooms will follow.

Meanwhile, at South Hobart Oval, one of the most historic football grounds in Tasmania, the dog walkers still rule the roost.

How the Hobart City Council can countenance such an arrangement mystifies me.

South Hobart Oval was a cricket and football ground for at least seven decades.

It has hosted some famous teams, players and important contests since at least the 1950s.

The ‘Keen’s Curry’ sign, made by spelling out the letters with white stones, high up on the hill near the ground is still there.

When my father used to take me to games at South Hobart in the late 1950s  -  when I was only 10 years old  -  I always knew we were almost at the ground when I saw that sign on the hillside.

South Hobart was soccer headquarters.

Photo:  The old heritage-listed grandstand at South Hobart Oval.  How could such an historic venue be used as an off-lead dog park when top-level sport is played there? [PlessPix] 

In succeeding years, the Tasmanian Soccer Association had their offices beside the netball courts on the city end of the ground.

South Melbourne Hellas, State teams such as Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and South Australia, have all played there.

Who can forget the Tasmania versus New South Wales game played there in the early 1990s.  Tasmania led 4-1 with 20 minutes to play, but NSW won 5-4.

The Joeys have trained there, as have Nagoya Grampus Eight (complete with Gary Linneker).

George Best has played there.

And then, in about 2018, something changed.

The Hobart City Council designated the ground as a dog-walking ground, and one where dogs could run off-leash.

Photo:  Damage to the South Hobart Oval turf caused by weeing dogs. [PlessPix] 

Football had to hire the ground for games and training, while for the rest of the time, it was a dog park and remained unlocked all day and night.

How was this decision made?  Perhaps some bush lawyers and animal activists, a powerful lobby group, got into someone’s ear and the ground no longer became a mecca only for football.  It became dog heaven.

One has to feel sorry for the South Hobart club, which hires the ground for matches and some training sessions because club volunteers invariably have to remove dog droppings from the ground before games.  The bare brown patches caused by dog wee is another feature of the ground these days.

How can this be hygienic?  I could list at least a dozen diseases that one can contract from dog droppings.  If players slip on the turds and sustain cuts, they could become seriously ill.  Dog droppings and sport don’t mix.

This applies to men’s, women’s and junior football.  Slipping on dog droppings on a premier sports arena is simply abhorrent.

Photo:  A visiting youth side from Sarawak playing a South Hobart junior team at South Hobart Oval.  What would such international visitors think if there were dog droppings on the ground? [PlessPix] 

Football is an easy target because the fans, players and clubs lack political clout and are largely apathetic.  They are not activists like the dog lobby.

Imagine the outcry if North Hobart Oval and the TCA ground were designated as dog parks outside game times.  They are both fenced grounds and would be suitable.

It would never happen, though, as there would be a public outcry.

South Hobart FC have almost $1.5m in the kitty through government grants and yet they cannot spend it on ground improvements because the venue is a dog park and not just a football ground.  Why would they?

The community can have its say as the Hobart City Council is calling for submissions and views about the use of South Hobart Oval in its South Hobart Oval and Park Survey.

The closing date for comment is 11 December 2022.  Go to the Hobart City Council website and find the link to have your say.  The dog walkers are sure to.

The football community and South Hobart FC need to reclaim what has always been one of the most famous homes of football in Tasmania.

There are other areas that the council can fence and use as dog parks.

The football community should be offended at how football has been trampled on by selfish vested interests.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

George Verrios disappointed but still upbeat about Olympia Warriors' future

Photo:  Olympia Warriors president George Verrios, a former Lacrosse player and football goalkeeper, can still manage a smile. [PlessPix] 

Olympia Warriors president George Verrios has released a statement concerning the club’s exclusion from the NPL Tasmania competition.

He said there was no avenue for appeal but that the club was intent on working towards being readmitted to the NPL within the next couple of seasons.

He said 26 players had attended the start of pre-season training this week under newly appointed coach, Kurt Reynolds, a former captain of the Young Socceroos.

Verrios said he had hoped that Football Tasmania would have allowed the club to continue in the Women’s Super League as it still had one year of its licence remaining.

The club had lost nine senior players from its WSL roster and that had meant a very difficult season in 2022.

The club was hoping to have certification tests done on its artificial pitch, but with only two companies able to conduct such tests it might take some time.

The artificial pitch was installed in 2010 and it would probably cost in excess of $1m to replace it.

Establishing a full-size grass pitch where the current warm-up area is was another option the club would explore.

Verrios appeared to have accepted Football Tasmania’s decision to demote the club but he said he wished FT had approached Olympia earlier to discuss the areas where the club had not complied with Football Australia criteria for NPL clubs.

He was keen to work with Football Tasmania and the Clarence City Council to rectify things and get the club back into the NPL as soon as possible.

The letter the club has issued to supporters is published here in full.

Dear Olympia Family,

We wanted to write to keep you all informed of the current situation after the disappointing decision made by Football Tasmania last week.

That is, that Olympia FC was advised that it was unsuccessful in the renewal of our Senior Men’s NPL licence and subsequently was also informed that our Senior Women’s WSL licence with one year remaining was revoked. This was devastating and we were bitterly disappointed to have been advised of this decision in the manner it was, just a mere five minutes before the rest of the Tasmanian Football Community.

An appeal was immediately lodged regarding this decision, as we believed that was the due process. We have since met with representatives of Football Tasmania and its Board. It was made clear to us at this meeting, that there was no appeal process, and that the ultimate decision is at the discretion of the Board of Football Tasmania, as they own the licencing/brand. They may own the brand, but the fact is that the Clubs are the product, without all the Clubs, without you, there is no brand.

In times of adversity a family must stand together firm to rise above all obstacles. Together we can achieve success and kick the goals needed to be back where we belong. 

We are so proud and grateful for the support from coaches, players, volunteers, and sponsors. We are thankful that together they are standing by and fully committing Olympia FC.

We will continue to work with Clarence City Council and Football Tasmania to ensure that the areas relating to our current facilities at Empire Couriers Park, highlighted by them that was deemed lacking within the current Football Australia criteria are met to ensure that we are returned to the NPL/WSL in the very near future.

Football Tasmanian has assured the Club they will do whatever it takes to ensure Olympia is re-instated to the top tier of Football in the State, with the 2024 given as an indicative time-frame for re-entry. The Olympia FC board is committed to reinstating our places in both the men’s and women’s premier NPL/WSL competitions

Moving forward, Olympia will focus on the continued development of our whole Football family and will field teams in both the Men’s and Women’s Championship competition for the 2023 season.

Olympia will continue to provide to all our Junior/Youth male/female players the best coaching and pathways available to nurture their personnel growth and development in the game.

We as a Club will stand firm, stand together, and be proud.

Go Warriors!

On behalf of the Club and the board,

George Verrios


Olympia FC Warriors