They said this day would never happen.
And by “they”, this column refers to the masses with pitchforks and flaming torches, ready to march on Football South Coast headquarters at the Frat Club, demanding the withdrawal of support for the Southern Expansion Sydney super club.
But sometimes symbolism alone is enough – and though Friday’s announcement lacked any real substance, it at least provided another important foundation stone for the Wollongong Wolves joining the A-League.
As much as they can refer to a document dating back to 2016, the bid needed FSC and Wolves officials to be sitting at the same table, united for the cause.
The conspiracy theories and back-room political bun fights are only intensifying now the shortlist is official.
And more fuel to the fire was added last week when Wolves chief executive Chris Papakosmas’s resignation was announced, after leading the club’s charge towards the A-League promised land.
A sudden statement on Facebook, at beer o’clock last Friday, left the club open to all sorts of speculation, particularly with no direct replacement, even with Luke Wilkshire’s presence.
For de Gabriele, Friday was a chance to cast aside the ongoing criticism about FSC backing two horses in a field of 10.
De Gabriele had delivered the same message when he spoke to the Mercury in March, days after sitting down with Craig Foster and Morris Iemma to commit to the Southern Expansion cause.
But he maintains it was the Wolves and their determination to wait until the bid process was finalised – in stark contrast to Southern’s early promotional blitz – which held back FSC from coming to the table earlier.
The feedback to the Mercury from punters on Friday was unanimous in wishing FSC to drop Southern Expansion like the ex-girlfriend your mother warned you about. The rumours abound about Southern’s bid in turmoil.
The street-corner tip is the Wolves are now the front-runners of the four NSW bids, though it is believed there are discussions about the two south-west Sydney hopefuls uniting.
Team 11 and the west Melbourne-Geelong bid are mightily impressive, but still lack the existing infrastructure to hit the ground running. The Mercury has been told by multiple sources that Brisbane City have league and television backing, as they want another A-League derby, after failures in North Queensland and on the Gold Coast.
So, if you were a betting man, perhaps Brisbane City and the Wolves, despite the Papakosmas announcement, are setting the early pace in the Shortlist Handicap, with the finishing post arriving on October 31.