FOOTBALL: Sunshine Coast Fire technical director Melvyn Wilkes expects the club's men's side will be significantly stronger in the revamped competition structure next year.
The team is languishing in 11th place on a 12-team state league ladder through seven rounds this season but he believes it will be much more prominent in 2018, when there will be a promotion-relegation system.
"We will have to be a lot more competitive and we will be,” he said.
The Fire's been dealt some hidings this campaign, including a recent 9-0 loss to Brisbane.
But Wilkes said the club's priority has been to support its juniors, particularly during the past two years. He said the young sides have had success and 61 players have progressed to high performance programs and/or beyond.
That focus on age divisions will continue, with expectations the club's products will in time make significant impacts in the A-League and W-League.
"(But) we're also building those teams from (under) 15s to 20s to strengthen our senior stocks,” Wilkes said.
He said that should help the men's side become more competitive.
The Roger Hardwicke-coached unit already has plenty of young players and Wilkes said they will be improved in 2018 after spending a season or more in the state's main competition.
And with the threat of relegation from Queensland's top league to the soon-to-be introduced state second league, the Fire is set to bolster its squad with more senior heads in 2018.
"We're not going to be looking for eight or nine external players. We're going to need three of four experienced players to top up the younger players, who will be 12 months further down the track,” Wilkes said.
He said the Fire has sponsors lined up for 2018.
The men's side travels to Ipswich on Saturday night to meet eighth-placed Western Pride.