Big hopes for bringing A-League to Ipswich

OPTIMISTIC: Western Pride coach Kasey Wehrman.
OPTIMISTIC: Western Pride coach Kasey Wehrman. Claudia Baxter

WESTERN Pride coach Kasey Wehrman has no doubt his club will pack out North Ipswich Reserve on a regular basis if it is awarded an A-League licence.

And Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale is set to move heaven and earth to ensure that becomes a reality.

Cr Pisasale said in Saturday's QT he would deliver a purpose-built 15,000 seat plus stadium, but it was his special relationship with Football Federation Australia chief executive officer David Gallop that would prove crucial in bringing about an A-League side in Ipswich.

The FFA has identified Ipswich and the western corridor as a potential site for a new A-League side.

Wehrman, a former Socceroo and A-League star, said Western Pride's transition from an NPL club to an A-League outfit would work if the FFA was behind it.

"Western Pride have been received really well," Wehrman said. "It will be a matter of turning that into an A-League team that can create the buzz that the Western Sydney Wanderers have created.

"But with the right people working for the club there is no reason why we can't pack 9000 or 10,000 in each week at North Ipswich Reserve. You know that if and when the Roar comes to Ipswich it is going to be a sellout.

"The Melbourne Heart's purpose in Melbourne is to play against the Victory in two derby games a year. Other than that, they don't draw a big crowd.

"But I think the Western Pride would draw a bigger crowd week in and week out, and an even bigger crowd when the Brisbane Roar comes out as well.

"Ipswich against Brisbane…it would be amazing."

Cr Pisasale will work with Gallop and federal government heavyweights to deliver a result for the city, just as Ipswich City Council did with the Brisbane Lions in bringing their $60 million training facility to Springfield

Gallop has long known the potential of the western corridor region. In his former role as NRL chief executive officer, he was backing the western corridor NRL side.

Cr Pisasale is set to tap into that understanding.

"My job is to make things happen and the city needs an A-League team," Cr Pisasale said

"Ipswich will embrace it because the people of the city always get behind their teams.

"I have a great relationship with David Gallop and he is an outstanding administrator.

"I look forward to working with him. He doesn't follow the ball. He goes to where the ball should be.

"David predicts where the game is going, just as we have predicted where the growth is going to happen in the western corridor."

Wehrman shared Cr Pisasale's optimism.

"We are a massive sporting town," Wehrman said.

"Whatever sport comes here on a national level, we are going to support it. There are lots of football lovers within the area; we know that hands down.

"There have been great players to come out of Ipswich and represent Australia through the decades…enough to suggest that we have always produced the talent.

"A lot of research needs to go into it, but if the FFA are behind it then there is no reason that it couldn't work."

The statistics certainly support the introduction of a national side into the western corridor.

The western corridor catchment area's population in western Brisbane, Ipswich, Toowoomba and Logan will be more than one million by 2031.

Likening Ipswich to Sydney's Parramatta, demographer Bernard Salt told the QT Ipswich would become a strong regional centre in the next 30 years.

And he predicted the Brisbane metropolitan area would double in size to 3-4 million - with most of the growth taking place in the south-western corridor of Springfield, the Ripley Valley and Ipswich. ABS figures show between 2000-2011 Ipswich grew 37.2%. By 2031, its population is expected to be about 360,000.



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