A season of domination is set to pay dividends for Shoalhaven FC, who are on the brink of promotion to the District League.
Shoalhaven were crowned Community League all age men's champions after a near-flawless campaign, with the side claiming 15 wins and one draw. They now have their eyes on the premiership double when they face Hill Top in the 2023 grand final this Saturday.
If successful, it will be the exclamation point on Shoalhaven's bid for District League promotion in 2024.
Finishing first is a key part of the promotion criteria, with Football South Coast's board set to meet in the off-season to see if the South Nowra-based club has ticked all of the boxes.
The promotion would only be relevant for the club's senior men's teams. However, Shoalhaven will have the option to nominate for the 2024 Women's Premier League, if they can field three teams.
Shoalhaven Football's technical director Mark Johnston said it would be a dream come true for the club to compete in the District League.
"If we hopefully get promoted, we've got everything set up. We've got sponsorship organised, a sub-committee organised to run the club under the Shoalhaven FC. And I've got coaches in places for 18s, 20s, reserves and first grade, and we've got the players too," Johnston told the Mercury.
"We're in a position now where it would be a shame if we didn't get promoted - that would probably be the death knell for us, because everyone is ready to go.
"We've been good across the board. The men are in the grand final, the under 18s are in the final and the women are in the grand final."
The Shoalhaven club is no stranger to the Illawarra's top football leagues.
From the late 1970s to the early 200s onwards - under the name Shoalhaven City - they competed in the Premier League and District League, gaining promotion or getting relegated between the two competitions.
They dropped out of the leagues around 2005, before returning two years later under the Shoalhaven FC name.
"Unfortunately they didn't have it organised and they only lasted a year," Johnston said.
"I've been the technical director with the association now for 11 years. The girls have a pathway with the (Dapto) Phoenix and NPL2, but one of my aims was to set a pathway for the boys too - and I think I've done that.
"It's been a long time, but we've got the infrastructure there. And we've got the sub-committee and I've already appointed the coaches for three years, so it's all ready."
Shoalhaven will look to complete the premiership double when they take on Hill Top in Saturday's grand final at Ian McLennan Park. It's an intriguing match-up between the league's top two sides, who are both based outside of the Illawarra region.
"It's good for us in the regional areas because, to play in Sydney as you get to seniors, it discourages blokes to play in the State League," Johnston said.
"Wollongong isn't too far away, travel wise, and it's good for blokes and young fellas to be able to expand, play and be seen in better competitions."