Three of the Illawarra's leading football organisations have thrown their weight behind the Wollongong Wolves as they prepare to return to Australia's national stage. Football Australia last month revealed that the Illawarra NPL NSW outfit were among the first eight clubs to be unveiled for the new National Second Tier, which will serve as one rung below the A-League. The inaugural competition is set to begin in March or April 2025. The Wolves have since started laying the foundations for their promotion. It has created waves in both the Illawarra sporting community and further abroad, including head coach David Carney fielding calls from interested players from across Australia. Now, Football South Coast and fellow NPL NSW clubs South Coast Flame and Illawarra Stingrays have come out publicly in support of the Wolves' push. Football South Coast and the Wolves haven't always seen eye to eye over the years, however, their relationship took a huge step forward in July 2018 when FSC renewed their commitment by signing a declaration of support for the Wollongong club in their bid for an A-League license. However the Wolves were eliminated from expansion race later that year. In early 2022, after stepping into the role, Wolves chief executive officer Strebre Delovski pledged to unite football in the Illawarra. Part of that commitment included working more closely with FSC, and this week's support pledge from FSC can be seen as another crucial step in that relationship. FSC chief executive Ann-Marie Balliana told the Mercury that they were happy to support the Wolves' push into becoming a NST club. "I think the Wolves being in the National Second Tier isn't just good for the Wolves, but good for football. It's great to see Wollongong back up there on the national stage," Balliana said. "It's also great for grassroots football. We represent all of the grassroots players here and it's great that we've got this presence locally, from under-sixes right through to a national league. And hopefully that eventuates into becoming an A-League team. "We're the grassroots association and we just want them to be as successful as possible. And where there's a way that we will help out, we definitely will." The South Coast Flame are one of the region's newest clubs, having been formed in 2017 to play in the NPL NSW competition. The Wolves' promotion has also been backed by the Flame, with chairwoman Maria Zouros saying that it was a win for the region. "It's great to see the Illawarra region being represented in the National Second Tier," she said. "South Coast Flame provides a development pathway for both males and females as part of Football NSW competitions, so having a pathway to the national level is important for the region for those that aspire to play at that level and beyond." The third key component in the support chain are the Illawarra Stingrays, who have long been touted as one day boasting a national women's team. However, the Rays have been vocal about "not being ready yet" to become an A-League Women's club. In May 2023, the Wolves and Stingrays made a pledge to work together for the benefit of football in the Illawarra. Rays president Kathy McDonogh confirmed this week that her club would continue to support the Wolves. "It will be lovely to see a national second division in the region. I think it gives a new injection of life into football in the area," she said. "I think it's still got a way to go yet, they're still ironing out some things in the background and there's only eight teams at the moment and that sort of thing. But in terms of our support, there's nothing formal or anything like that, but it's an in-principal support at the moment." For the Wolves, their promotion to the NST ends a long-held dream of the club to return to Australia's top-flight domestic competition. The club was two-time champions in the now-defunct National Soccer League. Wolves CEO Strebre Delovski thanked FSC, the Flame and Stingrays for their backing. "It's definitely another step forward for us," he said. "They have offered their support behind this national representation, which is significant for the region. It provides a pathway for all players, which will include a women's competition in the future."