THE Shoalhaven has always been a strong football factory, producing the likes of Socceroo Adam Federici and Western Sydney Wanderers' Jake Trew.
And the Shoalhaven District Football Association wants to continue that for years to come.
But when Football NSW decided earlier in the year that all under 18s sides playing in National Premier League Two had to have at least an under 20 and senior men's side, the region's footballing landscape changed.
Being proactive, Ian Cockburn and his SDFA board decided to establish a four-year plan to get Southern Branch back in the NPL2 competition - as licences last three seasons.
"We were obviously disappointed to be dropped by NPL2 in the men's competition but the wheels are already back in motion to get us back in there," SDFA chairman Cockburn said.
Related content:Dream come Trew: Jake makes A-League debut with Wanderers
"By the year 2023, we'd like to have an under 18s, under 20s and senior men's team back playing in NPL2.
"Originally, we had hoped to hold onto our current group of under 16s Branch players and enter them the SDFA competition but most of them have decided a move to Wollongong is best for their careers.
"So instead, we think the best course of action is to establish an under 18s team, made primarily of the top kids in the local area and play them in the SDFA competition - with a decision on the grade yet to be decided."
By having an under 18s team playing together for the next three years, Cockburn hopes to establish a strong players base that can join the women's (open, under 17s, under 15s and under 14s) and boys (under 13s - under 16s) contingent.
"We've tried to have senior men's teams play in both Sydney and Wollongong, following the collapse of Shoalhaven City in 2005, in the past but we've found it hard to get players committed to travelling," he said.
"On top of that, a number of our top players have been recruited to other clubs.
"But, they hope is, by establishing this from the under 18s and enticing our current boys contingent of Branch players to stay in the system, we can return Shoalhaven to its former glory - it'll allow players to compete at a higher level while representing the area they come from."
Related content:Federici's Socceroos secure crucial win against Jordan
With trials currently being held for Southern Branch at Ison Park, Cockburn hopes the selection process for the Shoalhaven under 18s team can start next month.
"We've had a fair bit of interest already from players around the association wanting to be involved," he said.
"And once we start the process and show the benefits of being involved in the great program, I'm sure more will want to be involved."
If you'd like to get involved in the team, please contact Cockburn (0411 120 563) and Mark Johnston (0488 034 500).