Talk about being thrown in the deep end.
New Wollongong Wolves coach Luke Wilkshire has been in the job for less than a week and already he has to prepare his team for a challenge unlike any he saw throughout his 18-year professional playing career.
Shutting down the world’s fastest man as he embarks on his quest to make the Central Coast Mariners A-League team.
Despite a professional career boasting 80 international caps, Wilkshire immediately identified one strategy he won’t be using when Central Coast take on the Wolves in October.
“You definitely need someone faster than me to be marking him,” Wilkshire said, only half-joking.
So how does Wilkshire plan on shutting down the fastest man in the world?
“It’s very difficult for coaches to plan for. We don’t know what his capabilities are. We know his speed, but technique-wise, he’s new on the block and there’s not much footage of him playing football, so it’s a bit of an unknown.
“The last thing you want is the fastest man in the world running behind you. It’s best to have him in front of you, you wouldn’t want to be chasing him.”
While the Mariners are locked in for the match, final confirmation for the game is still pending the recruitment of corporate sponsors to help cover the match’s costs.
But once those sponsors jump on board, Wilkshire has no doubts over what the arrival of the Mariners and their marquee recruit will do for football in the Illawarra.
“While the opportunity is there to make the game happen, it’s still subject to sponsors coming on board to cover the significant costs involved.
“If we can make it happen, bringing the Central Coast Mariners and Usain Bolt, with his profile, to Wollongong and to really showcase WIN Stadium and the sort of crowds we can pull would be a fantastic opportunity for everyone involved.”
The match, to be played on Saturday October 6, comes at a pivotal time for the Wolves as they continue to push for A-League inclusion.
The merging of the two South-West Sydney bids has seen that entity emerge as a favourite to receive one of two new licenses, however the Wolves remain optimistic about what they can add to the competition.
Wollongong will submit their final bid to Football Federation Australia on Friday and with the announcement of the two-teams set to enter the A-League to come on October 31, the Wolves clash with Central Coast may be the showpiece event that gets the bid over the line.
Wollongong has a record of supporting big football events in recent years, with over 8000 fans turning out for the Wolves FFA Cup match with Sydney FC in 2016, and Wilkshire has no doubt the fans will be lining up for a taste of top-flight football in the Illawarra.
“This kind of opportunity doesn’t present itself everyday. One to get an A-League team down here, and two to get the fastest man in the world and see him try to make a career in football. It goes beyond just football fans in the region and is going to be a fantastic spectacle.
“Any exposure for the Wolves is good exposure. With Usain being here, it gives us massive exposure, not just in Australia but around the world. When these opportunities happen, we like to take them. It’s not everyday that it comes along.”