Bolt boost in Wollongong Wolves A-League expansion hopes

Fast and the curious: Can Usain Bolt make it as a professional footballer? We will find out in Wollongong in October. Picture: AAP Image/Brendan Esposito
Fast and the curious: Can Usain Bolt make it as a professional footballer? We will find out in Wollongong in October. Picture: AAP Image/Brendan Esposito

Timing is everything.

Manchester City fans were wallowing in their long-held defeatist misery until Sergio Aguero buried that goal against QPR, with 93:20 on the clock, to snatch the 2012 title away from bitter rivals Manchester United.

For two seasons, hardly anyone could land a glove on Sydney FC, but then Terry Antonis became part of A-League folklore with a 117th minute goal, to put Melbourne Victory into the grand final, which they went on to win against Newcastle. 

And well into injury time with the A-League expansion deadline looming, Usain Bolt has emerged as the Wolves’ unlikely last-ditch hope.

As the column wrote last week, the recently-merged South West Sydney and United For Macarthur had snatched all the momentum among the NSW bids, leaving the Wolves and Southern Expansion languishing.

The bids had to be finalised and submitted by Friday afternoon, before an expected announcement of two clubs to be introduced in 2019-20 on October 31.

Squeaky bum time, as Sir Alex Ferguson coined it.

With the Mariners game, to be played on Saturday, October 6, the message from the Wolves is simple. We have an identity and we know we can pull a crowd, everyone else has to find one. 

There were 8000 at the Sydney FC FFA Cup game in 2016. About 7000 saw Italian legend Alessandro Del Piero play for the A-League All Stars in a scoreless draw against the Young Socceroos in 2014.

And 6500 were at WIN Stadium to watch Del Piero sit on the sideline and wave to fans when the Newcastle Jets beat Sydney 1-nil in 2013.

Then 6000 when the Mariners met the Wolves in an FFA Cup game in 2014.

The Mariners averaged 7194 last year. Wellington Phoenix just 5694.

Support: The Wolves have attracted big crowds against A-League rivals.

Support: The Wolves have attracted big crowds against A-League rivals.

The FFA has market tested the South Coast for a long time. We can talk about catchment areas and fishing for supporter bases, but the region has shown time and again it will support elite football.

The doubt remains about the Wolves financial backing, compared to the impressive south-western super bid. 

The Wolves were at pains to say the Bolt fixture is yet to be a done deal, because they still need to gather corporate support for the game.

But they also needed the shot in the arm before the bid deadline – and it is a test of their capability to establish an A-League team to make the Bolt game a success.

Weeks ago, this columnist joked about the A-League jumping the shark when the Mariners signed Bolt – a television industry reference about a show being past its used by date, after Henry Winkler jumped over a shark while on water skis as the Fonz. 

But luring him to Wollongong is a power play by the Wolves, in search of happy days ahead.

Start power: Italian great Alessandro Del Piero at WIN Stadium in 2014.

Start power: Italian great Alessandro Del Piero at WIN Stadium in 2014.

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