Few clubs in Australia boast a history as intriguing and as decorated as the Wollongong Wolves.
The regional New South Wales outfit has never let itself be bullied by the big boys from the city.
From the regional leagues, to the state leagues and then to the biggest stage of them all in Australia, the Wolves have seen it all and Susan Gatt has been there for a lot of the ride.
Gatt arrived at the club in 1995 when her husband’s – then boyfriend’s – father was treasurer of the club.
And no matter what the club has gone onto achieve it has always maintained the community feel – a true representative of Wollongong.
“Wollongong is not on the national stage, but we still love our football,” Gatt said.
“It’s the biggest junior sport here, so you can’t go wrong if you’re starting so strong from the grassroots.
“And everyone knows the history of football here and the players that have come from here.
“The Matt Horsleys, the Scott Chipperfields – he was born and bred Wollongong and went overseas and played for the Socceroos. It’s a prominent city for football in Australia.”
The club enjoyed some trophy-laden years in the now defunct National Soccer League before returning to the Football NSW National Premier Leagues New South Wales Men’s 1 competition.
“I’ve always just worked in admin. When we were in the NSL there was more staff – maybe six or seven of us,” she said.
“So I have been here through lots of different stages.”
But nothing beat the high of winning the NSL Grand Final in 2000.
The Wolves travelled to now A-League outfit Perth Glory to contest the first showpiece of the millennium and pulled off what is now known as “doing a Liverpool” five years before the English Premier League giants did it in Istanbul in 2005.
The Wolves were 3-0 down at half-time before a Chipperfield goal sparked a remarkable comeback that culminated in a win on penalties.
“Going to Perth for that Grand Final was amazing,” Gatt said.
“I did not feel that way at half time, though! I just wanted to get back on the plane.
“But football is a funny game and I think the effort to come back just epitomised who we are as a club.”
The Wolves continue to show their fight as a club and Gatt could not be prouder to see coach Jacob Timpano at the helm.
“I remember him playing for us in the under-13 team,” she said.
“He’s come full circle and there’s a great feeling around the club at the moment.”
-By Matt Galea
Tickets are available at the gate of all venues this weekend. Attend your local Heritage Round fixture and use #NPLHeritageRound on social:
Heritage Round – Saturday 28 May 2016
6:30pm – Sutherland Sharks v Manly United – Seymour Shaw
7pm – Bonnyrigg WE v Rockdale City Suns – Bonnyrigg Sports Centre
7pm – Hakoah Sydney City East v Wollongong Wolves – Hensley Athletic Field
Heritage Round – Sunday 29 May 2016
3pm – Sydney Olympic v APIA Leichhardt Tigers – Belmore Sports Ground
3pm – Parramatta FC v Blacktown Spartans – Melita Stadium
4pm – Sydney United 58 v Blacktown City – Sydney United Sports Centre