South Coast Wolves captain Jacob Timpano has urged Football Federation Australia to ensure the Illawarra is the base for its next expansion move, or risk the region facing elite oblivion for decades to come.
On the back of the Wanderers' success in the A-League and the World Cup in Brazil, FFA officials want to capitalise on the groundswell of support for the code by establishing another team in NSW.
FFA officials are studying the feasibility of building a southern Sydney outfit, based at Kogarah or Cronulla, which could also play games at WIN Stadium.
However, fears have been raised about the prospect of Wollongong, who last played on the national stage in 2004, being squeezed out of the process by rich Sydney backers.
A former Sydney FC and North Queensland Fury defender, Timpano said the FFA simply could not turn its back on the Illawarra region in preference for another team in the Sydney market.
"If the Illawarra doesn't feature in those plans it would be a massive blow for the region and its supporters who have long fought for a return to the national fray," he said in his weekly Illawarra Mercury column (page 31).
"They are the very same fans who watched the Wollongong Wolves claim back-to-back NSL titles more than a decade ago before their untimely departure from the scene in 2004.
"But since then the rise of the A-League has given new hope for a return.
"Yet with two clubs already in the harbour city and two more a stone's throw away [on the Central Coast and Newcastle], a fifth team in NSW would more than likely rule out further expansion in the state for the near future."
Football South Coast suffered a significant setback last year when funding for the Home of Football development at West Dapto was committed to by the previous Labor government, then scrapped by the current Coalition government.
NRL club St George Illawarra have cut their home games back from six to four at WIN Stadium this year, to alleviate cost pressures by playing at the more financially lucrative ANZ Stadium at Sydney Olympic Park.
Timpano is adamant the South Coast should not be satisfied by being thrown the crumbs of an A-League franchise and hosting just a handful of games for an otherwise Sydney-based franchise.
"Wollongong wants and needs a team of our own," he said.