The player exodus from Gold Coast United is gathering pace with rookie wingback Daniel Bowles sealing a two-year deal with Adelaide United, as the doomed A-League club heads into what appears its final game against Brisbane Roar on Sunday.
Bowles, 20, who has been given his chance by coach Mike Mulvey, joins Adama Traore (Melbourne Victory) and James Brown (Newcastle Jets) in departing the club whose license was withdrawn by Football Federation Australia after its stoush with Clive Palmer.
Though faint hopes of survival linger with FFA considering a proposal to save the franchise from a cartel of Australian and international investors, headed by local mayoral candidate Tom Tate and driven by sports entrepreneur Geoffery Schuhkraft, the exit lounge is looming large for players keen to salvage their futures.
Bowles, who scored his maiden A-League goal in Gold Coast’s 1-1 draw with Newcastle Jets two weeks ago, is joined on the outward bound list by skipper Michael Thwaite and young striker Chris Harold, both seemingly headed for Perth Glory.
Emerging centre back Zach Anderson, who turns 21 next month, is likely to join Central Coast Mariners while speed merchant Ben Halloran has attracted the interest of Brisbane Roar and may also trial overseas.
Fellow striker Golgol Mebrahtu has Wellington Phoenix, Perth Glory, Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart all tracking him.
“A lot of blood sweat and tears has been spilt to develop these players over the past three years or so and already the vultures are circling," Mulvey, who has guided a team with an average age of just 20 to a win, three draws and two losses in his six games at helm, said.
“Obviously a couple have gone already and for everybody concerned we hope a decision on the future is made sooner rather than later, so that we have a chance to keep the players we have or give them the opportunity to continue their careers elsewhere.
“Queensland is a hot bed for development and you have to ask where will the future players go. They can’t all be signed by the Roar and they’ll have to go interstate.”
Mulvey turned his back on a role within billionaire Palmer organisation to answer the call of his players to see out the season when FFA assumed control of the club and has made the most of his opportunity.
“I’ve been really happy with how the players have responded and they deserve a lot of credit," he said.
"They have come through great adversity and they have produced some very credible performances.
“It’s been a case of boys to men and I am really pleased for them.”
Despite all signs pointing to Gold Coast's demise, Mulvey is clinging to the lifeline of a possible rescue package for the club.
“We do have some hope. That’s what the players are playing for," he said.
"Everything that happens off the field will be decided by the FFA. But if you don’t have hope, what do you have?”
Mulvey is trying to keep the concentration of the wooden spooner-elect on Sunday’s looming Queensland derby against Brisbane Roar, which needs three points to have any chance of taking the Premier’s Plate.
“We want to do our part on the field to make a statement. It’s a huge game for us against Brisbane at Skilled Park and we’re hoping people come out and back us," he said.
It's been speculated Mulvey may be offered a coaching role within FFA if, as expected, Gold Coast joins North Queensland Fury in the A-League mausoleum.
"I opted to go with the players when the FFA took over because I didn’t want to let them down," he said.
"I was humbled by them asking me stay and coach them and how could I turn them down?
“My focus has been on that. The players have put themselves in the shop window. And after the season is over I will take stock of my own situation.
“At this stage I don’t know what will happen to me. I’m trying not to think too far ahead. We’re hoping something comes of the FFA and this consortium. I am optimistic something will happen there.”
Celtic assistant manager Johan Mjallby insists the club had no option but to take action against the fans whose behaviour marred last week's win over Motherwell.