Football Australia revealed on Monday that the Wollongong Wolves are among the initial eight clubs to take part in the inaugural competition, which will serve as one tier below the A-League. The inaugural NST is set to get under way in March or April 2025.
The opportunity caps a long-held dream of the Wolves to return to Australia's national domestic stage.
It's music to the ears of Wilkshire, who enjoyed a golden period as head coach of the Illawarra club. After accepting the role ahead of the 2019 season, his highlights included winning the NPL NSW premiership and becoming NPL champions of Australia that year - as well as guiding them into the final 16 in the 2021 Australia Cup.
The former Socceroos defender - who has since returned to the Illawarra - told the Mercury that the NST promotion was a "step in the right direction".
"The region is craving a team again on the national stage, it obviously hasn't happened since the NSL (National Soccer League) days," Wilkshire said.
"But there's still a lot of work to be done and we need the region - as a whole - to come together and go on in one direction together. I think everyone in the region understands that football here has been fractured for some time, but hopefully this is going to be one of those moments that sparks the region to push forward together."
Football Australia has received some criticism online for all eight clubs coming from just two eastern states, instead of representing the whole national stage. However, FA plans to unveil two to four more additional teams ahead of the 2025 competition.
The plans for a National Second Tier has been in the works since 2017, with the Wolves revealing in March 2023 that they were among more than 30 clubs from across Australia that had lodged an expression of interest for the first NST competition.
"An eight-team announcement doesn't really excite you because it's not enough for a league. Though they have proposed two to four teams coming in before the commencement, which is crucial, because eight teams isn't enough," Wilkshire said.
"I think it's a step in the right direction, but there's a lot of work to be done between now and the commencement."
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