Wollongong Wolves will have to make it back-to-back titles without home advantage after Soccer Australia decided yesterday that this season's grand final will be played in Sydney.
Parramatta Stadium is the likely venue for the title decider on Sunday week, although the Sydney Football Stadium has also expressed an interest in the game. For the first time since the inception of the grand final to decide the championship, in 1998, the first team to qualify will not get home city advantage.
Wollongong reached the grand final by overcoming minor premiers South Melbourne in the second leg of the major semi last weekend. Souths now meet Sydney Olympic in the preliminary final on Sunday, with the winners going on to face the Wolves in the grand final.
Wollongong coach Ron Corry, the players and fans have all been outspoken in their view that the game should be played at their regular home ground, WIN Stadium. However, Wolves chairman Joe Cachia was less vehement yesterday when he said: "Obviously we would like it in Wollongong but commonsense has to prevail."
At issue is the small capacity of WIN Stadium (officially 15,000, but Soccer Australia has grave reservations that this is achievable), its antiquated media and corporate facilities, and the fact that it has a grass hill along the eastern side of the ground.
The SFS and Parramatta have larger capacities, better corporate facilities and more seats. At its meeting on Sunday, the national league executive decided either Sydney ground was a better option based on commercial considerations. The indications are that the Wolves board will not fight the ruling.
Meanwhile, the Wolves are hopeful they have convinced striker Stuart Young and utility Robert Stanton to re-sign with the club, but look likely to lose skipper Matt Horsley and Socceroo striker Scott Chipperfield to Perth Glory.