The Wollongong Wolves have thrown their weight behind a renewed plan that could propel them into A-League contention.
The Association of Australian Football Clubs on Monday released an updated report on the affordability and feasibility of establishing a national second tier competition. The AAFC is a representative body of clubs from outside the A-League, including 2019 NSW NPL champions the Wolves.
An Australian second tier division has been discussed for several years, but an official campaign was launched last August. The new comp could launch as early as 2022 with 12 teams, and would open the door for promotion and relegation with the A-League.
Wolves coach Luke Wilkshire said his club was right behind the AAFC's plan.
"It's something that's obviously been spoken about, but we can start to make progress and make some movement," he said.
"I've said it before and I continue to believe that this region deserves an A-League side. We're building towards that, step by step, and improving things both on and off the field. And we will continue to do that until we reach our goal."
I've said it before and I continue to believe that this region deserves an A-League side... to get into the A-League, we will take whatever steps we can to get there.- Luke Wilkshire
The AAFC's new report, Reshaping Australian Football's National Second Tier, included a study into the financial cost of running a second division tier. It estimates that annual running cost would be up to $3.3 million.
In addition to a club participation fee of $200,000 per season, it's estimated each club would require an annual budget cost of between $850,000 and $1.6 million. However, it's understood all clubs involved in the campaign believe this is an achievable goal.
"We would need to sit down and go through all of that, but we've got ambitions to keep building and to go as high as possible," Wilkshire said.
"To get into the A-League, we will take whatever steps we can to get there."
Under the AAFC's proposal, the second tier competition would be overseen by an advisory board consisting of members from Football Australia, the AAFC and relevant supporting committees, including from participating clubs.
The next step in the campaign involves a consultation with key football stakeholders, led by Football Australia and A-League clubs. The AAFC plans to have a finalised report by Easter to present to the FA board.
Wilkshire, who played 80 games for the Socceroos, said it was important for clubs to have a clear pathway to the top in Australia.
"In any walk of life, you've got to have a goal and something that you're working towards," he said. "As a player, I never wanted to stand still and be satisfied, I always to improve and progress. And everyone at our football club has the same ambition and the same desire."