PROUD: Western Pride celebrate their historic NPL grand final victory.
PROUD: Western Pride celebrate their historic NPL grand final victory. Chris Simpson

Pride of Ipswich in the A-League?

LAST week, A-League boss Greg O'Rourke threw fuel on the ever-flickering fire regarding expansion of the national football competition ahead of the 2019-20 season.

Despite the Brisbane Roar's recent struggles, O'Rourke said a second team in Brisbane would help and not hinder the three-time A-League champions.

"When you have two teams in the one city, you get this one plus one equals three effect,” O'Rourke told AAP. "If you think Wanderers (and) Sydney FC, it created a rivalry that didn't exist prior to that.

"We believe if a second team was to come out of Brisbane it would encourage fans to pick sides and fill the stadium at derby time.”

It was perhaps the biggest hint yet that Brisbane will be at the forefront of FFA's mind when the governing body finally resolves its internal issues and confronts the question of expansion. That then begs the question, who steps in to fill the role as the Roar's local nemesis?

NPL Queensland contenders Brisbane City and Brisbane Strikers are two such clubs linked to fill the void.

The former has already submitted an 80-page bid document to FFA, and City received the public backing of Roar star Thomas Broich in August.

City bid chairman Robert Cavallucci spoke on The Daily Football Show last week and doubled down on O'Rourke's assessment.

Key to City's success according to Cavallucci, is the club's footprint in community programs, headed by senior coach and former Adelaide United and Sydney FC coach John Kosmina.

In Perry Park, Strikers boast the current facilities most suitable to hosting A-League matches - a fact made even more beneficial after O'Rourke admitted Suncorp Stadium might be too big to host A-League matches, at least in the short-term.

The Bowen Hills venue has hosted late-round FFA Cup matches featuring Adelaide United and Melbourne City in recent years.

But what about the Western Corridor?

Western Pride general manager Pat Boyle told the QT in March last year the club and its representatives "would move heaven and earth” if an A-League opportunity came knocking.

Although the reigning NPL Queensland champions may not have the storied history the likes of City and Strikers can boast, Pride does have a major advantage over their inner-city rivals.

The sporting culture in the Western Corridor is something hard to quantify, but spend even a single weekend amongst the grassroots clubs and you begin to understand.

The aptly-named Pride brought exactly that to Ipswich, just as the Jets did when they won the Intrust Super Cup in 2015.

FFA have repeatedly delayed the release of expansion criteria, making it difficult to assess where a bid from the Pride would sit in the pecking order. But if you draw a parallel to City, it is hard to make a case against them being at least on equal footing.

RESULTS: On the pitch and in the development stakes, the Ipswich club takes the cake after last season's efforts. Results have never been the most important aspect of the Pride program, but it does provide a means of measuring just how successful the club's development philosophies are.

Last season the Ipswich outfit went on a 10-game winning run on their way to becoming NPL Qld champions, at an average of 4.3 goals per game to just 0.5 goals against over that span.

That was despite fielding one of, if not the youngest side in the competition. Captain Jesse Rigby is entering his fourth season at the helm, and is still only 20 years-old.

Coach Graham Harvey refuses to be happy with the standard he sees on the pitch, even in the aftermath of an 8-0 win.

At Pride, there is always room to grow. There is no resting on laurels.

FOUNDATIONS: Whereas City and Strikers have NSL history to lean on, the fledgling Pride, established in 2012, do not.

And yet the Ipswich club can already boast backing, infrastructure and a supporter base to rival any other in the NPL Qld set-up.

This fact is even more impressive when you look at the consistent struggles of other recently-formed franchises out of Townsville, Cairns, Mackay and even the Gold Coast.

There are many reasons for this. The passion of the administration to see its vision of a successful Ipswich football franchise flourish, and the support of Ipswich City Council - spearheaded by former sport boss David Morrison.

The recruitment of players who not only have the talent to succeed, but the necessary temperament and willingness to buy-in to the Pride culture. And support from the Ipswich football community, facilitating a mutual give and take relationship between clubs with the betterment of Ipswich football a key focus.

COMMUNITY: Cavallucci spruiked City's move into St Joseph's College, headed by a recognisable face in Kosmina, as proof of the club's footprint in the community.

The Pride's community work, which includes bringing coaching clinics to schools like Boonah and Augustine College through the Learning With Pride program among a plethora of other pursuits, culminated in receiving the Ipswich Sporting Organisation of the Year award in 2016, and the Sporting Excellence and Pride of Ipswich awards in 2017.

PASSION: People power spoke when a combined campaign by the Pride, Ipswich City Council, the QT and supporters forced Football Queensland's hand to reverse its decision and re-admit the Pride women into the NPLW competition. What other club can claim to have the level of support both from local council and media that the Pride does?

The groundswell of support proved just how important the club as a whole is to the sport-going people of Ipswich.

COMPETITION: The Jets have sat on the cusp of inclusion to the NRL for years.

Now the AFL has come to the party, with the Springfield Reserve set to house the Brisbane Lions' AFLW side from 2019 onwards.

And as the Gabba faces increasing scrutiny over public access and transport concerns, we may well see the AFL side also playing out of Springfield before too long. Which means FFA would do well to consider beating their rival codes to the post by establishing a franchise in Ipswich before the NRL or AFL can do so.

If the expansion merry-go-round ever ends and significant talks commence, FFA would be smart to consider a bid out of the Western Corridor, even if the popular choice resides in Brisbane.



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