The Illawarra Stingrays are backing an ambitious plan to have a Wellington W-League team based in Wollongong next season.
The Phoenix A-League club have flagged their intentions to field a side in Australia's major women's football competition. With the FIFA Women's World Cup heading down under and to New Zealand in 2023, Phoenix general manager David Dome told NZ's Stuffthat the timing was right to obtain a W-League licence.
The club has stated a willingness to base their W-League team in the Sydney region for next season due to ongoing concerns over travel. Wollongong is among the nominations as an ideal location for the Phoenix.
Some football supporters may suggest that the Illawarra would be better served having their own club, the Stingrays, join the W-League. However, club president Kathy McDonogh told the Mercury that the Stingrays weren't ready yet.
"We'd love to at some point, but we're a long way away from that considering the Wolves put in a [A-League] bid and it fell over," McDonogh said.
"Most A-League teams and W-League teams' bids go hand in hand, a club that has both like the Wanderers. They're probably most likely to [bid for both]. Whereas we're a little bit dysfunctional down here in Wollongong which I personally hope we can overcome in the future for things like this.
"For us, we've said that we're a far cry from having a W-League team... we're looking down the barrel of being 10 years away from that."
We're a far cry from having a W-League team... we're looking down the barrel of being 10 years away from that."Kathy McDonogh
However, the Stingrays are very supportive of the idea of a Phoenix W-League side being based in Wollongong.
McDonogh sees it as a great opportunity for the two clubs to work together.
"Even if we're just a training hub or they're based here, to see, interact with, and have a relationship with them can invigorate our girls and women's football in our area to that next level. They can see that pathway, they can actually see the girls training," she said.
"Canberra United and the Western Sydney Wanderers are as local as it can get for our girls. If the Phoenix come here, that opens up even greater options for our girls. Football South Coast have a relationship with Sydney FC, this gives us an opportunity to have a relationship with a W-League team ourselves directly, and locally."
Former Wolves coach Jacob Timpano also believes the move would be great for football in the Illawarra.
"With the Women's World Cup coming, having a W-League team based here would be a fantastic opportunity for the region," he said.
"You look at the talent the Stingrays and the Illawarra have produced with players in the W-League and on the international stage.
"It's a credit to the Stingrays and how they've consistently performed at NPL level and another step forward for the Illawarra, as we look forward to the chance to throw our hat in the ring again for A-League and W-League."