How did you come to start the Melbourne Supporters Branch, and how long has the branch been going?
Me and a friend of mine started it around twelve months months ago after I convinced her Sunderland was the way to go, and she somehow fell for it! We started a Facebook page, and it wasn't long before we realised that there were a lot more Sunderand fans in Melbourne than we thought.
How many members do you have, and do you ever meet to watch games together?
Although we're a relatively new organisation, we have over 220 Facebook members. We haven't set up any official membership as such. We have had one proper get together for last April's derby win over Newcastle - it's tough to organise, given the times that we play. Pubs here are more inclined to show games featuring Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea than they are Sunderland, unfortunately.
Me and our co-founder are both born and bred in Victoria, and have no initial association with the North East at all!
How did you become a Sunderland supporter? I can't imagine that Sunderland get a great deal of coverage in Australia...
Ha nah, not so much. It started for me personally in the first game of the 2007 - 2008 season.
Up until that point I didn't really follow the sport at all. One day was with a mate and we picked a random game to watch, which ended up being Sunderland versus Tottenham - our first game back in the top flight after promotion from the Championship under Roy Keane. In truth it was a pretty dross game. Not much happened until Michael Chopra scored in the last minute of injury time to send the Stadium of Light into raptures. Regardless of him being a wanker, it set me on my way.
It started off as an interest and has now become an obsession.
Have you ever been across to England to see the lads play?
Unfortunately not. That's the dream one day!
Although you've only followed the club since 2007, we've had some brilliant times since. What game do you regard higher than all the others when it comes to your favourite Sunderland match, and why?
It's a tough one. Despite the near relegation endings we've actually had some extraordinary wins in that time.
Although I hold this season's three-nil win over Newcastle in high regard, I have to say the New Years Day win over Manchester City when Ji scored in the final minute is probably my most treasured game.
I was at home in the lounge - trying to be quiet as always - given the time slot. I remember defending as well as we ever have. We just didn't give them a clear cut chance. Every shot was almost outside the box. They had a close call with a minute left, and I remember thinking, 'I'm satisfied with this - 0-0 is good', and then we charged down the wing.
Ji to Sess, back to Ji... 'He's around the keeper - he's scored!' Just brilliant.
What are your hopes for the future with Sunderland - do you think we'll survive?
Oh... good question. If you had asked me a month ago I would have told you that we were down. February was a good month for us. I wasn't particularly optimistic, but results recently have been better. We were poor against Liverpool but had a great fightback, deserved something from the Manchester City game and were worthy of the win against Manchester United.
We can survive, definitely. What we showed against the two Manchester clubs - if we can continue to perform at that level - should be enough to see us safe. We're capable of survival - it seems Sam has finally come across his best formation and starting eleven. Barring injuries, we'll be alright.
Speaking of the future, what are your hopes for the Melbourne Mackems Supporters Group?
Personally, my dream is to be at a game - I'd give anything to attend a derby.
We're also looking at a podcast down the track as well.
From a group perspective it's definitely to expand and have regular meetings. It's only early days realistically, but I feel that there is definitely a core fan base in Melbourne that we can expand upon. Our issue, due to time problems, is picking the right game and time to organise meetings but hopefully as we grow we'll increase the regularity amongst the Melbourne crowd.
How can Sunderland fans in Melbourne get involved with your group?
Probably the best thing to do is to jump on the page give us a like. We try to update as much as possible.
Ideally, we want to expand and have an official membership base. We are also on twitter - @melbmackems, or for the less social media active you can always send through an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can send through any updates of meetings and such. We welcome anyone!