Illawarra absence ends cup tradition

FOR the first time in Australia's World Cup involvement there will be no player from the Illawarra representing the Socceroos.

The region's hopes were dashed when coach Ange Postecoglou omitted Luke Wilkshire from Australia's final 23-man squad for the Brazil showpiece.

So there will be no Illawarra representative when the Socceroos kick off their fourth World Cup campaign against Chile on Saturday.

With a lack of defensive cover and experience, Wollongong-born Wilkshire looked set to play in his third consecutive World Cup, but Postecoglou decided to drop the Dynamo Moscow player along with goal-keeper Mark Birighitti and injured pair Tom Rogic and Josh Kennedy.

Socceroos great Mark Schwarzer was among many to express disappointment that the Albion Park junior was denied the opportunity to add to his 80 caps for Australia.

"I personally wouldn't have left him [Wilkshire] out," he said.

While the long-time No.1 goal-keeper acknowledged the situation in 2014 was very different to that of Australia's 2010 and 2006 campaigns, he said the team would have benefited from the likes of Wilkshire, recently retired international Brett Holman and axed skipper Lucas Neill.

The Illawarra has been well-represented at previous World Cups.

Peter Wilson was the inaugural captain when Australia played in the 1974 event in West Germany. Teammates included Illawarra identities Adrian Alston and Max Tolson. The late, great Johnny Warren, who spent most of his later life in Jamberoo, also featured for the Socceroos in 1974.

Thirty-two years later Australia qualified for their second World Cup.

Once again three players in the Socceroos squad came from the Illawarra.

Scott Chipperfield, Luke Wilkshire and Mile Sterjovski were in Germany in 2006 as Australia took on the might of Brazil, Croatia and Japan before going down in the round of 16 to eventual champions Italy.

Chipperfield and Wilkshire were joined by Nowra gloveman Adam Federici at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Gerringong's Joel Freeme will be the manager of the national side at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

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