Wollongong Wolves will be out to break free of their underachievers tag in 2019 with a new coach and new look squad hopefully the perfect formula to catapult them to the top.
Former Socceroos star and Wollongong product Luke Wilkshire replaces Jacob Timpano in the hot seat at WIN Stadium this season after calling an end to his playing days last year.
It will be a trial by fire for the veteran defender who has played in some of Europe’s top leagues during an 18-year career.
“It’s completely different to any preseason I have done before but I feel like I’ve settled in to the role pretty well so far,” Wilkshire said.
“It is incredible how much more work goes into being a coach than what it does as a player. When you leave the training paddock the work doesn’t stop and you don’t get the same opportunity to switch off as you do when you’re playing.
“It’s a really honour for me to get the chance to be in charge at Wollongong as it is the club where it all began for me.
“I just hope I can do a good job and give many more young players from the South Coast a chance to break through like I did.”
While he may not have the coaching experience of some of his NPL NSW Men’s rivals, Wilkshire is confident he can help transform the Wolves into a team which can challenge for the title.
It has been back to back seasons of big investment and little return for the club who have gone without finals football for the past four campaigns.
Wilkshire has returned to a local talent focused approach this season as they attempt to end their playoffs drought.
“I’m not too worried about the past. You could say it is a new era at the club,” he said.
“We’ve brought in some new faces and plenty of young blood to help us go in a new direction.
“I’m really excited about the group of players we have assembled.
“I want to play attractive football and show off our player’s talents and from what I’ve seen so far I think that vision can come to fruition.”
Wilkshire’s move from the playing field to the dugout is only one of a few big changes to the playing roster this season with striker Peter Simonovski, veteran Japanese star Takuya Nozawa and hardworking midfielder Steven Hayes departing the club.
Japanese Striker Yuzo Tashiro will also move into the coaching set up in Wollongong after announcing his retirement.
The club has brought in Japanese midfielder Takeru Okada who joins Wollgonong after stints in Poland and the J-League.
The side has also signed former Sutherland Sharks defender and skipper Nick Littler as well as Illawarra Premier League standouts Guy Knight and Harry Callahan.
English born striker Thomas James has also been brought in from Canberra Football Club.
“I’m really happy with everyone we have signed as they each bring extra quality to the side and I’m sure will go on to play a big role in the team,” he said.
“I really wanted to find some hidden gems in the local competition here in Wollongong and I feel like i’ve done that with Guy (Knight) and Harry (Callahan) who have really impressed since coming on board.
“I’m really confident in the squad we have and believe we will be able to achieve the results we are working towards.”
Wollongong Wolves open their season at their spiritual home of Albert Butler Park on March 10 against Manly United.
Key player movements
Arrivals: Takeru Okada (Corrimal), Nick Littler (Sutherland Sharks), Guy Knight (Bulli FC), Harry Callahan (Bulli FC), Thomas James (Canberra FC)
Departures: Luke Wilkshire (Coaching), Yuzo Tashiro (retirement), Takuya Nozawa (Japan), Peter Simonovski (Sydney United 58), Steven Hayes
-By Nick Houghton