Wollongong confident of being ‘first picked’ for A-League expansion

Wollongong Wolves - the club etched in Australian football folklore - believe they will be the “first team picked” when Football Federation Australia decides in October which two expansion clubs will granted A-League entry in 2019-20.

Wollongong Wolves

Wollongong Wolves defender Darcy Madden (L) shields the ball from Sydney's Michael Zullo (R) during the 2016 FFA Cup Source: Getty Images

The ex-NSL giant and winner of the legendary millennial grand final against Perth Glory, will submit their expression of interest prior to the May 24 deadline, and have emerged as the New Romantics amidst a throng of franchises seeking to get a foot in the door.

“There is romanticism about our bid considering our past successes,” CEO Papakosmas said.

“We’re about filling in a geographical footprint that hasn’t had representation for a long time.

“We’re not putting our submission in hoping to be considered, we are putting our submission in knowing we will be the first team selected.

“We’re a club and a region that has been producing top quality footballers going back to the ‘60s.

“We’ve got a history of success and it’s all coming together nicely to be re-admitted to the national competition. We already have three generations of fans following us.

“We’ll be the first team picked and will pick up from where we left off by being an instant attraction.”

Papakosmas isn’t buying into a potential turf war with fellow A-League aspirants Southern Expansion, the Chinese-backed entity which plans to play some of its home games at Wollongong’s WIN Stadium - the Wolves base - should they get the nod from FFA.

But he does point out that the National Premier Leagues NSW Wolves - who dropped off the national radar when NSL folded in 2004 - would “expand rather than dilute the competition”.

“We will not be bastardizing, or taking oxygen and media space from existing clubs,” Papakosmas said.

“We’re a stand-alone independent region ... we’ve never considered ourselves Sydney. There is no need for us to throw any stones at anybody.

“What we have way above others contemplating a submission is the infrastructure, the fan base and the brand recognition.

“Sport is built around tribalism, loyalty and pride in your area.

“We have potential derbies coming out of our ears.

“There’s Newcastle v Wollongong, battle of the steel cities; Central Coast v Wollongong, battle of the coasts; Sydney v Wollongong, big brother little brother and Wanderers v Wollongong, middle brother little brother.

“We have ready made, genuine vitriolic local derbies.

“With the past in mind Wollongong v Perth is another classic fixture.”

Wolves beat Glory on penalties after overturning a three goal deficit to draw 3-3 in the classic clash of its era.

“We are not a manufactured franchise: our logo is as recognizable, if not more so, than many existing A-League teams,” Papakosmas said.

“Our history speaks for itself and we have a purpose built stadium for our A-League and W-League teams.”

The community-funded Wolves, who count sometimes Socceroo gloveman Adam Federici as an ambassador, have already been approached by nine current A-League players bred in the region, pledging their allegiance should a license be forthcoming.

“Our model is based around a community asset and that means we don’t have to try and squeeze every last dollar we have to provide a return to an owner or group of owners,” Papakosmas said.

“We have indigenous and educational partnerships. We’re a social phenomenon rather than simply a football club.
“I think you’ll also find there will be strong support for our submission from the existing clubs.”

Wolves are also in the process of developing a centre of excellence and training base in partnership with the Illawarra Stingrays women’s Premier League team and Illawarra Aboriginal Land Council, and also have the backing of Football South Coast.

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Published 26 April 2018 at 2:33pm
By Dave Lewis