The Illawarra's triathlon scene has been dealt a considerable blow, with Wollongong Wizards coach Jamie Turner confirming the squad has shifted its training base away from the region.
The squad will instead split their time during the Australian summer between New Plymouth, New Zealand, and Perisher, with the lower population of those locations playing a big role in Turner's decision.
Turner reinforced Wollongong's credentials as a region for developing emerging triathletes, but said the time had come for his squad to explore new environments.
"Certainly this year we made the choice to move to an environment with a lower population base, to make it better for cycling," Turner said. "It's nice to explore new environments and we have accessibility to quieter roads.
"Wollongong has developed a lot. I think Wollongong is still a fantastic place for cycling, but we've just given the athletes a fresh environment. Wollongong was our home for many years, now we're exploring somewhere new during this early-season phase."
The move away from Wollongong comes as the elite squad has undergone a period of change throughout the past 18 months.
Long-time squad members Aaron Royle, Ryan Bailie, Charlotte McShane and Jake Birtwhistle, among others, have all parted ways with Turner as he made a decision to focus on a smaller squad of eight to 10 athletes.
Ashleigh Gentle and Natalie Van Coevorden have remained with Turner, while 2018 Aquathon winner Callum McClusky joined the squad in January 2018.
"When I negotiated my conditions with Triathlon Australia for the 2017-2020 period, I wanted to focus on a smaller group of athletes. I had some athletes who had been with me for a long time and they made choices to move on.
"As a coach you aim to grow and develop, but sometimes athletes need to learn new things from different people. Once they feel they can learn more from others, it's time for them to pursue new opportunities."
Turner first arrived in Wollongong in 2002, establishing a squad known for turning aspiring youngsters into elite athletes. He is confident the region will maintain that reputation, with protege Brendan Sexton remaining in Wollongong.
Formerly coached by Turner, Sexton has coached alongside Turner in Wollongong since 2017, focusing on promising under 23 athletes. He boasts a squad featuring 2019 Aquathon runner-up Troy Whittington and will welcome Perth talent Luke Bate after this weekend's Devonport Triathlon.
Sexton praised Turner for establishing Wollongong as a triathlon hotbed and said he's ready to pick up where his mentor left off.
"Wollongong started as a development location for Jamie," Sexton said. "A lot of the Wizards came through that development pathway.
"In creating this new squad I'm leading, the Wollongong Performance Centre Development Program, it's an attempt to renew that development emphasis."