SINCE it's inception in 1969, one could argue there hasn't been a more important off-season during Southern Branch FC's career.
Firstly they welcomed back Norm Boardman to the club as technical director, before the Ison Park-based club announced a landmark partnership with the Illawarra Stingrays.
These two announcements led perfectly into the club's final move, which was changing its name to the South East Phoenix Football Club.
"The club saw the opportunity for new beginnings in women's football on the South Coast," Phoenix club president Glenn Wright said.
"A new name reflective of our south-east region and the invigorating Phoenix - a club rising from the ashes with renewed youth."
Although only announced recently, this rebrand has been in the works since September 2019, when a new board was elected.
"After being elected, we set about an immediate change and went to work on a new club ethos," Wright said.
"On top of that, we started upon many other positive initiatives, including the name change - which in itself is easy, from voting on the agenda item, to a unanimous vote and sending the paperwork to the Office of Fair Trading and Football NSW.
"It is all the work behind the scenes which is more difficult in making the change.
"The changing of and improved perceptions around the club, the challenges surrounding the promotion of women's football from Eden to Gerringong and to the Highlands, fundraising, the creation of business partnerships and opportunities for local businesses to be involved is where all the hard work is done.
"We have an amazing board of people who are putting their own time and money into keeping women's representative football alive on the South Coast.
"We are striving to get the community and individuals behind us with a little help, be it their time, sponsorship of the club or an individual representative player, business partnerships or anything that can help improve women's football.
"We are looking for more positive and energetic people to join the board and/or club to ensure our future viability and the future of women's sport."
Long-term, Wright knows these changes will benefit the club, which is the only regional National Premier League Two club in the Football NSW elite competitions.
"The change of name is self-explanatory, while the coach brings big credentials in women's development and the Stingrays' partnership creates better opportunities," Wright, who's club plays two-thirds of their matches at their South Nowra home venue, said.
"Norm's knowledge and expertise surrounding women's football in NSW is superior to most.
"He brings with him a wealth of experience as head coach of state, country and metropolitan women's teams - with his most recent affiliations being the head coach of Macarthur Rams Womens FC (NPL One) and Western Sydney Wanderers women's (W-League).
"He has a strong passion to impart this knowledge to players and coaches while improving and developing women's football on the South Coast.
"Norm has already engaged a number of senior players to help coach and develop some of our youth sides.
"Our recent agreement with the NPL One Illawarra Stingrays ensures we as a club promote our girls to be the best they can be and achieve whatever that is that they want to achieve.
"A true regional pathway from our NPL Two club into the NPL One competition with all our club's support.
"In return, players who may not be ready for the NPL One competition and are not selected with the Stingrays are encouraged and afforded the opportunity to come to our club and remain in the NPL environment under the guidance of quality NPL coaches.
"We also provide a true local pathway or stepping stone for our country girls through the football ranks from local club football, through the NPL space into the state and national competitions.
"It has been an amazing transformation for the club which has been more than 12 months in the making and very exciting outlook for 2021 and beyond."
The partnership between the two sister clubs is already working, with eight players (2 SAP (skill acquisition program) players, three under 14s and three under 15s) selected into the NPL One Stingrays outfit for 2021.
As such, Wright sees a very bright future for the club in the coming years.
"[In the future] I see the opportunity to work with local clubs and associations along the South Coast in developing women's football," he said.
"I see an opportunity for local clubs to encourage their better players to give our community women's NPL club a go and therefore benefit the individuals own development opportunity and self-worth.
"In return, I see the Phoenix assisting local clubs in their own development and that of their coaches and players alike.
"I see a strong future for the club, the region and women's football on the South Coast.
"In five years, I would like to see this club have girls and women's sides represented throughout and challenging for every grade from the under nines girls SAP program through to our NPL senior women's sides.
"I also see our club continuing to develop our women's football brand, players and coaches through meaningful relationships with our local grassroots clubs to meaningful relationships with a W-League club in a similar manner to that invested in the Stingrays already.
"I see a club with fully-fledged coaches giving women footballers and coaches alike the opportunity to develop to their full potential along the entire South Coast."
While there has been plenty of action off the field, the on-field play has just resumed, with 2021 trials kicking off at the weekend.
"Our trials for the 2021 season commenced on Sunday at South Nowra with a very pleasing and positive turnout," Wright said.
"We are encouraging all girls/women on the South Coast to come along, meet Norm and have a go.
"We are especially looking for more SAP, under 14 and under 15 girls after a number of our 2020 girls from those age groups have made their way into the NPL One Stingrays sides."
The club's next trials will be held on Sunday, November 22, starting at 9.30-10.30am for the SAP and under 10s through to under 13s.
The under 14/15s trials follow at 10.45am to 12pm, before under 17s (12pm to 1.15pm) and seniors (1pm to 2.15pm).