Whilst the off-season is in full swing, football never truly sleeps. The same can be said for the Illawarra Premier League, with clubs busy in the background sorting their squads for 2024. In the absence of games to watch at the weekend, social media activity is where the eyes of the region's football supporters are firmly locked. Constant changes have been made already, particularly with a couple of players from grand final champions Coniston departing, whilst Wollongong United will look vastly different with Rob Jonovski stamping his authority on the squad following the departure of Billy Tsovolos. Even just recently the Mercury has been across the latest news in the league, including the signing of District League goalkeeper of the year Blake Coad to Corrimal as well as Bulli's squad re-fresh. With the winter football season slated to begin in March 2024, pre-season is in full swing for most, if not all clubs. It is a guarantee that more signings will be announced before a ball is kicked, but here is the Mercury's choice of the most crucial IPL off-season signings that have been confirmed so far and why. Starting off with a bang with Coniston's grand final winner in Sam Matthews moving to Wollongong United. United were extremely busy in the market very early in the off-season and in amongst all the excitement of signing Port Kembla captain Jordan Nikolovski (who makes this list), Matthews could well be up there in terms of important signatures for 2024. Two things synonymous with Illawarra football is Matthews working under Rob Jonovski and that is what we will see once more. The duo have collaborated in the past (most recently at Coniston before Jonovski left the eventual champions) and will re-unite at United. The former Wolves NPL product is not only creative but tenacious. He is an experienced head in the middle of the park and that will prove vital in a United team with a number of youngsters still learning their trade at the top level. Picking up an IPL grand final player of the match is quite the coup. The forward has been at a few different clubs in the IPL now but make no mistake, when Tory Musumeci fires he is very hard to stop. In a team full of youth at Corrimal, Musumeci will no doubt be the talisman the Rangers were sorely lacking in 2023. That will suit the former Wolves player to a tee. Musumeci found himself in and out of the team during a league championship winning run with Albion Park and made the move to Corrimal earlier this month. Expect him to become a regular for Phil Matias and Manny Mavridis in their quest for finals football. The last two seasons have been the best for Cringila for quite some time as they fell agonisingly short of silverware in 2023. Whilst the likes of George Naylor Medal winner Peter Simonoski, as well as Stefan Dimoski and Nikola Ristevski have been around the blocks, the Lions team could always have more experience. That is where Jack Keating will come in. The centre-half was a mainstay for a number of seasons with Mark Every at Wollongong Olympic and he will only make Cringila harder to beat upon his return to the club. "If you look at what the team did last year, I think it speaks for itself. I think the team is extra hungry to go one better and I want to be part of it," Keating told the Mercury when he was signed. "In my initial meeting with (Crini coach) Jorge (De Matos), we spoke about my experience - the team just needs a little bit of direction. They had a very good defensive record this year, so I think it's about having a vocal point at the back and adding a bit of experience. "If I can bring that to the team, that would be great." It has arguably been the biggest signing of the off-season so far with the aforementioned Nikolovski trading Wetherall for Macedonia Park in 2024. The former Port Kembla captain will work under Jonovski as United aim to make finals after missing out last season. Goals are pretty much guaranteed from Nikolovski. Now in his mid-20s, he will provide that entertainment factor at United with the attacker known for his stunning flicks, tricks and goals. Perhaps a signing that has flown under the radar is that of Justin Ivanovic to Cringila. Part of the Wolves team in the mid-2010s, Ivanovic has been a mainstay in the NPL system for a number of seasons now and will provide more depth and experience to the already quality Lions outfit. "Justin is an established defender plying his trade within the NPL for the majority of his playing career, and will add depth and experience to our team," the club wrote in a statement.