Socceroo backs south-east Melbourne's A-League bid
SOUTH-EAST Melbourne's greatest football product, Socceroos legend Vince Grella, has officially backed a push for an A-League club in the region.
The region's bid to become Melbourne's third A-League club further materialised on Thursday when three local councils signed an historic Memorandum of Understanding at Dandenong's Harmony Square.
A community event at the same venue involving grassroots clubs from Melbourne's south-east was to be held at 4.30pm.
The Mayors of Greater Dandenong, Casey City and Cardinia Shire formalised their partnership at the signing event, officially launching a push to bring an A-League/W-League club to the region.
The local mayors said they would not run or bankroll the club, but have welcomed potential investors to come forward after providing solid foundations.
As reported previously, Greater Dandenong council wants to see a boutique stadium built near its train station, while the City of Casey is pushing for a soccer centre of excellence to be built at Casey Fields - which would become the prospective club's training and administration base.
Grella, who was born in Keysborough and played for Springvale City before carving out a stellar international career, was unveiled as an official ambassador while the "super club" concept was endorsed by the seven biggest clubs in the region.
Grella said Melbourne's south-east was Australian football's best-kept secret.
"A region that's always produced a steady stream of Socceroos and professional players," he said.
"I'm very passionate about this region and what it can do for Australian football and an A-League club would thrive. It has enormous potential. I'm serious, this club can be huge.
"There have been strong junior numbers here since I was a kid, and they are only getting stronger and there is massive community support."
Dandenong Thunder, Dandenong City, Casey Comets, Springvale White Eagles, Berwick City, South Springvale and Pakenham United all brought senior officials and players to the MOU event.
Players represented included fellow local products such as former Socceroos Ljubo Milicevic (Dandenong City).
The commitment from Dandenong Mayor Jim Memeti, Casey Mayor Sam Aziz and Cardinia Mayor Brett Owen formalised a working alliance that has been months in the planning.
Memeti said the south-east's diverse and rapidly growing community was ripe for the picking.
When including the residing areas of Kingston, Mornington, Frankston and Gippsland, south-east Melbourne has a population base of more than 1.2 million people.
According to 2011 census data, Greater Dandenong alone is represented by residents from 156 different nations, while 88,000 people living in Casey were born overseas, with those numbers set to rise when 2016 census data is released soon.
"If Football Federation Australia's preference is to locate a new team in a heavily populated centre - to 'fish where the fish are', if you like - then south-east Melbourne is the ideal place," Memeti said.
"With that many people, a bigger base than Adelaide, we are one of the fastest growing populations in the country."
Aziz said the W-League and youth team component of the push are just as important as the A-League team.
"Our aim is for our youth teams to be made up largely of players in our catchment area," Aziz said.
"We would not rule out fielding a youth league side and/or a W-League side before the senior men's side."
As reported in November, Owen confirmed that local clubs are pushing the prospective A-League club's cause, citing the professional pathway the team would then create for the region's boys and girls.
"We have spoken to many of the local clubs and they all endorse the concept of a representative 'Super Club' and the opportunities this would create," Owen said.
Members of the south-east Melbourne community were encouraged to register their interest in being a part of the A-League push by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.