Launching a new sporting team is difficult at the best of times, and to do so knowing the team will spend their entire first season abroad, without the comforts of home support, could be considered madness. But Wellington’s A-League Women’s side have ended their inaugural campaign with two wins, league-wide respect, and a whole lot of cause for optimism.

Gemma Lewis’s young side recovered from precipice of a winless campaign to salute with late wins against Canberra and Western Sydney, and although they’ve taken out the spoon (barring an almighty collapse from the Wanderers today), they’ve displayed the resilience that’s been drilled into the club as a whole over their two-and-a-half seasons in Wollongong.

‘We could not have been happier with how the season’s played out’, Wellington General Manager David Dome told Box2Box. We came very late to the party, it’s a project we’ve been working on for six-to-seven years, and then when it did happen we had to pull it together in about two months.

‘It hasn’t been without challenges. It is a very young team, so we’ve had to put some mental health wraparounds to protect them as best we can, but I’ve got to be honest, they’ve been so resilient and are such a close knit team. They’ve bonded really well.’

Dome has been continually upfront about the financial strain the club has suffered during its extended time abroad. The issue was highlighted last month when their men’s side opted to play Melbourne Victory behind closed doors due to inability to find a sponsor to wear matchday costs, galling given the league’s desperation for fans in stands.

‘It’s been hard… The losses are huge, they’re in the millions of dollars, there’s no doubt about it. There are two aspects to it: you increase costs by relocating entire teams to another country, and there’s the lost revenue, so you put the two together and it’s into the millions.

‘Our season memberships pretty much evaporated overnight, our commercial revenue is down, and matchday revenue is non-existent. All the games you would normally sell tickets for at home are gone, it’s almost negligible now. Memberships are at a 10th of what we’d normally do.

‘The APL has helped this year in terms of relocation costs, which has been good because we couldn’t have afforded it otherwise. Some key partners in Australia have helped out with some of the costs too.’

There remains hope some costs could be recouped by another late-season return home for Ufuk Talay’s side; matches in Wellington and Auckland both drew over 22,000 fans last campaign and provided a tonic for patient fans denied access to their club throughout the pandemic.

‘We can now get both teams in, New Zealanders, Australians, foreigners. There still remains the issue here of playing to restricted capacity in stadiums, at the moment if we were to play this weekend at Sky Stadium there would be 1,200 people there, which is a nonsense, ridiculous.

‘Our position with APL from the start of the season was, ‘let’s just keep the option open.’ Greg O’Rourke and his team have been really good in trying to facilitate that. Any time the government over here has made a decision or there’s been some movement, we’ve kept them in the loop.

‘Were now looking at a couple of games towards in April. We might have restrictions around the stadium and capacity relaxed and could have full blown games here in Wellington. Last year we had 24,000 when we came back and we’d get that again no problem, I’m sure of it.’