Wolves to showcase A-League claims against Mariners

Retired Wollongong A-League star Mile Sterjovski and fellow former Socceroo Paul Okon during the FFA Cup draw on Friday.  Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Retired Wollongong A-League star Mile Sterjovski and fellow former Socceroo Paul Okon during the FFA Cup draw on Friday. Picture: GETTY IMAGES


FOOTBALL

It's been playfully labelled the Mile Sterjovski Cup.

With the draw live on television, South Coast were one of the last to be drawn from their pot, as they booked an FFA Cup date with former A-League champions Central Coast Mariners, likely to be played on Tuesday, August 19.

The clash may not have the pulling power of the rabid support of Western Sydney Wanderers' Red and Black Bloc, or the navy blue army following Melbourne Victory.

But there is no questioning the Mariners' credentials as an Australian football powerhouse and a model for success for any future South Coast A-League franchise.

After completing his official duties with the draw on Friday, Sterjovski admitted he enjoyed the prospect of his two former clubs meeting in the round of 32.

"It's pretty funny," he said of the Sterjovski Cup reference.

"I knew as soon as I drew it out that it was the Mariners and I had the Wolves in the back of mind during the draw, waiting to see when they would come out.

"It was an honour to be part of the first ever draw, it's a great initiative and helps close the gap a bit between the A-League and the semi-professional clubs.

"It's also perfect timing for the FFA to capitalise on the growth of football in Australia, with the World Cup, the A-League and the Asian Cup to come.

"Hopefully it will be a stepping stone to promotion and relegation in Australia and it would be great to see Wollongong back in the elite competition."

Injured Wolves captain Jacob Timpano, a former Sydney FC and North Queensland Fury defender, admitted holding his breath as it became clear the team would be drawn against an A-League club.

"It's a great result to play an A-League club, it's a chance to show the strength of South Coast football," he said.

"It would have been great to have the Wanderers or Melbourne Victory here, just because of the amount of crowd support it would attract, but it's fantastic to be playing the Mariners.

"They're a hugely successful club in the A-League and all the boys can't wait to take them on."

It was Sterjovski - who developed through the Wolves system and won the 2013 A-League grand final with the Mariners - who pulled the Central Coast ball from Pot A to lock in the WIN Stadium showdown.

And being played on a Tuesday night in Wollongong, when the Mariners are just weeks into the pre-season preparations for the next A-League season, Timpano is bullish about the Wolves' hopes.

"It's a good chance of getting a result," he said.

"When I was playing for Sydney FC, we would play against state league opposition during the pre-season and we got beat on numerous occasions.

"At that stage of the year, there's not much difference in terms of standard, because we're well into the NSW Premier League season and are well conditioned."

Two years ago, Dapto Dandaloo played out a draw in a Central Coast pre-season encounter, while experienced midfielder Steve Hayes has trialled with the Mariners and Wolves product Josh Bingham is in their youth system.

Timpano, who played for Australia at under-23 level and was with Fury prior to the demise of the club in the A-League, said it was an opportunity to show he could still handle the national elite competition.

"I still feel like I'm up to that level when I'm fit."

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