There is a very real possibility there will be an Illawarra A-League derby, of sorts, in a couple of years time.
As the FFA board election campaign continues, Southern Expansion and Canberra are front-runners, even amid the doubt about when it might be announced.
Should it eventuate, likely for the 2020-21 season, then WIN Stadium could quite conceivably host a game between soccer’s version of St George Illawarra and Canberra, who now have the support of the scorned Wollongong Wolves.
One of the six remaining bids – after the Wolves and Ipswich missed the latest cut – Canberra have committed to playing one game a season in Wollongong as part of the agreement with the Wolves, if they are admitted.
So it would be quite a scene if Canberra were to host Southern Expansion’s team in an A-League fixture in the not-so-distant future.
Even entertaining the possibility reflects the bitterness and animosity in Illawarra’s football cold war. The Wolves are now playing the long game, needing the Sydney south-west bid to trump Southern Expansion in the process to keep the door ajar.
It is increasingly likely either the south-west or Southern Expansion bid will be included, at the expense of the other.
After chief executive David Gallop once ruled out Canberra’s A-League hopes, the national capital is suddenly all the rage in the expansion race.
The Melbourne bids have infrastructure issues to contend with and the poor crowd numbers at Melbourne City games leave significant doubts about the need for a third Victorian team.
For Southern’s part, they are, both publicly and privately, extremely confident of winning the race to expansion.
It’s no longer an arms race between them and the Wolves, they have all the pieces in place in terms of the expansion criteria.
They’ve moved into the next phase, trying to win over the public in the hearts-and-minds battle.
It continued this week when Southern recruited former Matildas player and television identity Amy Duggan.
Duggan approached the Wolves and her former club the Illawarra Stingrays to tell them she would be supporting the Southern bid and joining the board, before the announcement.
Speaking to the Mercury on Thursday, Duggan declared her position is to secure the best possible deal for the Illawarra, which currently stands at four or five games per season under the Southern model and the development pathways with it.
There had been some suggestion of a peace deal between the Wolves and Southern Expansion, after the Wolves bid was ruled out.
Any prospect of a Southern Wolves-type super club seemingly ended when the NSW NPL club instead aligned with Canberra.