Wests Illawarra Aquatic Swim Club head coach James Greathead has launched an ambitious new project to establish a high-performance swimming squad.
The experienced mentor is hoping to work with the University of Wollongong to set up the program.
Discussions are in their preliminary phase, UOW unlikely to commit to the proposal in the short-term due to financial constraints.
Universities across Australia have set up high-performance programs in recent years, with Wollongong star Emma McKeon currently based at Griffith University on the Gold Coast.
While the program would likely attract students from other regions to UOW, Greathead is confident the biggest beneficiaries would be the Illawarra's swimmers.
"We're trying to provide a world-class program for the people who live in regional NSW and the South Coast," Greathead said.
"I want to have something for my swimmers that I'm coaching. They're going to be finishing school in the next two to three years, if there's nothing here for them, I'll more than likely have to move them on.
"I'd love to see them have the opportunity to stay in the area and continue their academics and sporting career without needing to leave."
Greathead's focus isn't purely on high performance, the coach also determined to ensure competitive youngsters remain in the sport even if they aren't going to challenge for a national title.
Swimming in the Illawarra, and Australia more broadly, is geared towards juniors and elite opens, with little scope for social but competitive young adults.
Instead, these athletes often drop out of the sport before returning later in life as ocean swimmers.
UOW's current swimming offerings reflect this, with the senior squads targeted at open-water competitors.
"We're losing people from the sport who think they can't continue or think they haven't made it so have to give the sport away," Greathead said.
"A lot of other countries have shown it doesn't have to be like that. Swimmers can still enjoy the sport for what it is. They can compete, be part of the community and engage with people on a similar page."
While Greathead is determined to use Australia's success at the Olympic Games to drive the formation of the program, he faces a number of hurdles.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left UOW attempting to replace lost revenue streams while reducing costs.
The formation of a new swimming program has the potential to generate long-term cash flow, but will require considerable upfront investment.
UOW remains committed to their current elite athlete setup, however a spokesperson said the university is not currently in a financial position to fund the project.
"Currently, the University is focused on addressing well-documented financial pressures and has limited ability to fund additional programs, at the expense of core services," the spokesperson said.