The Wollongong Wolves have taken a huge step towards a return to the top flight after proceeding to the request for proposal phase of Football Australia's National Second Tier competition.
The Wolves were among 26 clubs announced on Wednesday afternoon to advance to the next phase. The Wollongong NPL NSW club revealed in March that they had lodged an expression of interest for the competition.
The Wolves were among those successful clubs to meet the criteria outlined in the invitation for expression of interest phase, and Wednesday's announcement is viewed as a crucial next step in the selection process.
Wolves chief executive Strebre Delovski told the Mercury that the announcement would help bring the club to their end goal.
"The club was extremely pleased to be formally advised that our application for the National Second Tier has progressed to the Request for Proposal (RFP) stage," he said.
"The club aspires to represent our region at the highest possible level in the country and today's announcement by Football Australia brings us a step closer to that goal."
He added that the job for the club was not done yet however.
"Not all of the criteria we need to meet is known yet. We will find out more once the RFP phase begins," he said.
"However, we are confident that we have the capacity to meet the criteria which has been discussed so far. Now is the time for the community to come out and support the Wolves and show Football Australia that our club and our region deserves representation at the highest level."
Football Australia chief executive James Johnson said: "We are delighted to announce the 26 shortlisted clubs for the National Second Tier competition, reflecting the passion and dedication that these clubs have shown in their pursuit of elevating Australian football.
"This significant milestone brings us one step closer to realising our 15-year vision for the sport, and we eagerly anticipate working hand-in-hand with these clubs to establish a thriving and sustainable National Second Tier competition.
"Together, we will shape the future landscape of football in Australia, offering new opportunities for growth and development while reconnecting and realigning our nation's football competitions."
The concept for a National Second Tier competition took a giant step forward last October when more than 30 clubs met in a meeting held by the Association of Australian Football Clubs, the organisation that represents the clubs involved in the process of getting the league up and running in Australia.
The competition is expected to begin in March 2024 and will involve between 10 and 16 sides in a home-and-away league structure with finals.
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