Coach Luke Wilkshire says the Wolves will start 2021 with a "clean slate" as they make their long-awaited return to the field this Sunday.
Wollongong's NSW National Premier League side will take on Illawarra-based A-League club Wellington Phoenix in a behind-closed-doors friendly. After a long pre-season, Wilkshire believes it will be a great first test for his team.
"I think it's an ideal start. We're going to play in-house and the way the A-League draw has gone, they've got the weekend off. One of the benefits of having them in town is we can help each other out in the aspect of getting games, which is something you can't replicate at training," Wilkshire said.
"The game against Wellington will be followed by a game on the Wednesday against Central Coast Mariners NPL2 side at Albert Butler. We've got an in-house game against ourselves next Saturday, followed by Rockdale. From there, every week after that, we're full of games.
"The boys have been working hard and now we're getting into games. They're fit and raring to go, and I think it's all about match fitness now which is exciting for them because they've had quite a bit of time off from actually playing."
In a shortened season due to COVID, the Wolves came within a whisker of clinching the Premier's Plate in 2020, only beaten by Rockdale on goal differential. The side then bowed out in the first week of finals, losing 3-1 to Sydney United 58 FC.
"This group, and myself, we're hungry no matter what every week. But, naturally, what's gone is gone. We were disappointed to not get the premiership by one goal and to go out again in the playoffs. But we've got a hungry group of guys who are looking to achieve and put their own names in the history books. We go out there every week looking to win, we're hungrier than ever," he said.
"I've got new players and these boys are fighting for positions, so there's plenty of [pre-season] games and opportunities for these guys to impress. I'm happy and very excited going into this year because of the way the boys have been working and coming together, not just on the training pitch but off the pitch too. It's a big part of this club and our culture. The new boys who've come in and the boys who are stepping up have really shone and impressed.
"I always say at the start of the pre-season, it's a blank piece of paper. And as the pre-season rolls on and the games come, these guys start to put their own names down on the paper. Their performances and their training is what gets them in that squad come the first game of the season. We will take it as it comes, they'll all get opportunities. But obviously you want a settled side by the time you get to round one."