Returning coach Chris Gallagher believes Wallsend's shock withdrawal from the men's second division last week was the reality check the historic football club needed to spark supporters into action.
The Red Devils, formed in 1887 and believed to be Newcastle's oldest continuous football club, informed Northern NSW Football last Tuesday they were pulling out of next year's Northern League One and Premier Youth League. It came after the resignations of president Darren Hampson then coach Michael Gatt. The club has also been unable to fill requirements in the PYL. Last season they fielded only one side, in the under 18s.
Following the Newcastle Herald story revealing the club's demise, supporters held a crisis meeting on Friday night at the Racecourse Hotel. From there, a working group was formed, while Gallagher, who coached the club in 2010-14 and 2017, returned to guide the NL1 seniors.
Wallsend will now stay in NL1 in 2024 and try to again field an under-18s, while working to build their youth program for future years.
Gallagher, who coached Wallsend's under-18s last season, was happy with the rally from supporters but said the club needed more.
"I think it was kind of what the club needed, a bit of a reset, because it's sparked a lot of the old boys into action," Gallagher said.
"Greg Frame and Allen Hardes, they have been instrumental. Graham Webber and a few others were down there as well. But we want all the old boys to come down and help out, even if it's just coming down and watching.
"That's how clubs survive, it's the ex-players and the families who want to keep it going."
He said most players from this year had indicated they would return.
"Our primary focus is trying to secure first and reserve-grade teams, and depending on numbers over the next couple of weeks, we may have an under-18s," he said. "Then it's a 12-month plan try to figure out how to bring 13s to 18s back to the club, then the season after hopefully another plan to brings 9s to 18s back. But you not only need funding, but volunteers and players."
He said the club's finances were "operational" and they would save money this year by not paying players or coaches. He hoped the club's plight would attract more sponsors.
"Trying to get junior teams back at Wallsend is something we really need to do, but how we do that, I don't know, because it's a huge burden on every club, with training and match day facilities to pay for," he said.
"And when you are playing at a place like The Gardens, it's a big financial strain on the club."
Wallsend have produced 20 Australian representatives and were a powerhouse in the 1930s, '40s, '50s and '60s, but they have regularly battled tough times in lower divisions since the loss of home ground Crystal Palace in 1985. They have spent recent years at The Gardens greyhound racing venue - the former Breakers Stadium site - which they lease.
Treasurer David Maher said the club was "all fine" from a financial viewpoint.
Maher said last week's decision was "more about people".
"[The news] went out and now we've got plenty of people on board, so it's all positive," Maher said.
Gallagher said The Gardens would be leased for another 12 months but the club needed a home of their own.
"If we can get an area in Wallsend from the state or federal government where we can actually build a ground again, that would be the ultimate goal," he said.
"We need our own home and if anyone had land in the Wallsend area we could use, it would be greatly appreciated."
IN THE NEWS: