We must accept, at least in a sporting sense, the Illawarra is now an outer, outer suburb of Sydney.
With St George Illawarra firmly entrenched since the end of the Super League war, it’s just how it is.
The A-League metrics – the criteria a bid is judged on – has trumped tribalism. Was always going to. Why?
Because the number of eye balls on a screen boosts television ratings, which in turn lifts advertising revenue, which super-charges broadcasts rights deals, resulting in more cash for the game.
It’s a simple formula, but the only one that really matters. Smaller regional markets struggle to measure up, despite the feel good factor of a Wolves return to the top table, almost two decades after winning back-to-back NSL titles.
On Thursday, after Wollongong and Ipswich were voted out at the A-League Expansion Survivor tribal council, Southern Expansion boss Chris Gardiner was joined by Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery and Football South Coast chairman Eddy de Gabriele to triumphantly declare their bid is No.1.
Southern Expansion have fished where the fish are for a couple of years now, knowing the whole time the model is pretty much what Football Federation Australia bosses were looking for.
And now we reach the end game, where, after territorial bun fights with existing A-League powerhouse Sydney FC, Southern Expansion face a final battle with a rival bid from the metropolitan south-west, likely for one of the two licences.
But, if successful, Southern Expansion must heed the warning from punters this week. In a poll which received more than 400 votes on the Mercury’s social media channels, 86 per cent of people on Facebook said they wouldn’t support Southern Expansion.
And 77 per cent on Twitter voted no.
It’s only a sample size, but as the region’s newspaper, it can hardly be ignored either as a reflection of community reaction. Of course, Southern Expansion will gain the 15,000 members – with 5000 each from Sutherland, St George and the Illawarra if they are included in the A-League – through junior bases if nothing else.
But they must do more to win over the average person whose interest in the A-League might have been waning, as the NBL and Big Bash captures the public imagination.
As for the Wolves, once again they have themselves to blame. They struggled to secure the necessary financial backing.
And while Luke Wilkshire has a decorated career and is a fine ambassador for the Wolves – and may well make a great coach – the club desperately needed a chief executive to do deals and shout from rooftops after Chris Papakosmas’s departure.
When the whips were cracking in the Expansion Stakes, the jockey fell off.
It will be years, perhaps decades, if at all, before they may have another shot at A-League entry.
In the meantime, the Illawarra has a choice.
Either accept and even embrace Southern Expansion, or sit on the sidelines indefinitely.