The Wellington Phoenix's A-League season is shaping as a defining period for both the club and the Illawarra.
Off the field, the Phoenix's stint in Wollongong could have long-lasting and wide-ranging ramifications.
Since the demise of the National Soccer League and the Wolves' decision not to enter the A-League in 2005, the region has been starved of top-flight football.
That all changes on Saturday, Wellington to play their first game at WIN Stadium after they were forced out of New Zealand due to COVID-related border closures.
While the Phoenix plan on returning home as quickly as the situation allows, their time in the region is being viewed as an opportunity.
The next few months are a chance for the Illawarra's football fans to turn out and show their support.
This is their chance to get behind a club and prove Wollongong can sustain an A-League side.
Wellington have kept a fairly low profile since arriving in the region, recent efforts to engage with the community hampered by the Northern Beaches outbreak.
The Phoenix, however, recognise how important this season is for the Illawarra.
"I believe Wollongong is a footballing town," Wellington coach Ufuk Talay said this week. "I'm hoping that people do come out and support us while we're based in Wollongong.
"Hopefully we can turn them (local Sydney FC supporters) around and they don't have to travel all the way to Sydney to watch games, they can support us.
"It's never easy in the A-League, as you can see with the results from the last few days. Hopefully we can get those guys that love football in Wollongong coming in and supporting us."
Questions loom over the commercial viability of an Illawarra team, a region that has struggled to sustain NRL and NBL clubs.
Those leading the charge for a Wollongong A-League franchise are confident this is not a concern.
After years of struggles, the Wolves have found solid ground on the field under Luke Wilkshire and off the field courtesy of chairman Tory Lavalle.
One of the cruel ironies of the present situation is the Illawarra could eventually end up with Wellington's licence, some powerbrokers eager for the competition to be entirely Australian.
With A-League independence officially arriving and a shift to the winter months imminent, the football community is brimming with excitement about the future.
Wollongong can be part of that future. The Wolves are working hard to make it happen.
Now it's up to the fans to vote with their feet and make a statement throughout this season.
Make it clear to those in charge that Wollongong must be part of that future.