22 November 2023

Wollongong Wolves return to national competition - but they won't stop there

| Zoe Cartwright
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two men holding club scarves on a football pitch

Wollongong Wolves CEO Strebre Delovski and chairman Tory Lavalle at the Football Australia National Second Tier Foundation Clubs announcement at Leichhardt Oval, Sydney. Photo: Football Australia/Brett Costello.

Wollongong might get its own Wrexham-style fairy tale after Football Australia announced the Wolves as one of the inaugural National Second Tier football teams.

CEO of the 43-year-old club Strebre Delovski said there was plenty of excitement in the side.

“The opportunities are endless in this space, and if there are any production crews out there that want to take this on board, we’re happy to talk about it,” he laughed.

“In all seriousness, there are plenty of opportunities and we’re happy to explore them all moving forward.

“It’s exciting for everyone involved, not just the Wolves, but the whole region.

“We’ve got the largest participation in Australia at all levels of the game, and this completes the pyramid at this stage, and it gives us a pathway in future through to the A-League.”

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The two-time National Soccer League (NSL) champions were relegated to the state league in 2004 after the collapse of the NSL.

It’s been a long road back to the national stage, but the club was confident they could meet the challenge.

eight men sitting in change room with football jerseys

Football Australia announces Foundation Clubs for National Second Tier at Leichhardt Oval, Sydney. Photo: Football Australia/Brett Costello.

James Johnson, CEO of Football Australia, said establishing the National Second Tier (NST) would transform Australian football, and the inaugural clubs were carefully selected after a rigorous application process.

“It [the NST] symbolises our commitment to reconnecting the football pyramid and enhancing the competitiveness of our national game,” Mr Johnson said.

“Each chosen club demonstrated not only their readiness in terms of operational and commercial elements but also their alignment with the strategic objectives of Australian football.

“This is more than just a competition; it’s a cornerstone in our mission to fortify the foundations of our sport.

“The National Second Tier will be instrumental in nurturing talent, engaging communities, and elevating the overall quality of football across the country.”

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The club has no plans to rest on its laurels. Mr Delovski said the Wolves’ campaign to be not just the inaugural team but the inaugural champions of the NST begins now.

“The Illawarra football family has been crying out for national representation for some time and the club has worked extremely hard to deliver on this desire,” he said.

“The club is now looking forward to working with Football Australia and the other foundation clubs to help shape the competition. The time has come for the Wolves to return to its former glory.

“We’re there to win the competition in season one, no doubt about that, and we’ll build a strong team to ensure that happens.

“But right now, it’s the excitement of getting it all out there and giving the community the opportunity to get out and support us.”

The NST will begin in 2025 and initially feature 10 or 12 teams, with home and away matches culminating in a competitive Finals Series.

Eight foundation teams were announced: the Wolves, APIA Leichhardt FC, Avondale FC, Marconi Stallions FC, Preston Lions FC, South Melbourne FC, Sydney Olympic FC and Sydney United 58 FC.

In early 2024, an additional two to four clubs will be added through a refined application process.

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