THE success of the Central Coast Mariners since the Hyundai A-League’s inception can be attributed to a number of factors including team unity, club culture, and coaching nous.
THE success of the Central Coast Mariners since the Hyundai A-League-s inception can be attributed to a number of factors including team unity, club culture, and coaching nous.
But there is no doubting the backroom staff - the men and women behind the scenes - play an influential role in ensuring the side is ready for action each weekend.
Indeed, Central Coast Mariners enjoyed the best injury record of all Hyundai A-League clubs throughout the 2011/12 campaign. Head of Sports Science Andrew Clark, the crew from Hills Street Physiotherapy, and many others worked tirelessly towards the common goal of having each player at his personal peak each week.
Hard work pays dividends, and the best reward of all was Graham Arnold being able to select his first eleven week in, week out from a squad exuding fitness and health.
Such was the strength of Arnold-s outfit, the wily mentor often named twenty players or more in his initial squad not only to ensure training standards remained high, but to keep opposition tacticians guessing as to the final make-up of his game-day squad.
The end result? A Hyundai A-League Premiership and subsequent qualification for the 2013 AFC Champions League.
This season the Mariners made an important off field signing with Andrew Nealon joining the Club as Head Physiotherapist.
Nealon, who was raised in Bateau Bay, went to high school at The Entrance and now lives in Wamberal, was added to Graham Arnold-s staff following a successful spell in the United Kingdom where he worked with Barclays Premier League giants Liverpool FC.
Spending two years at Anfield, Nealon helped caress a number of leading players back to full fitness, treating the likes of current England captain Steven Gerrard and Dutch international Dirk Kuyt throughout his stay on Merseyside.
Working for ‘the Reds- was a dream come true for the lifelong Liverpool supporter, but plying his profession at the Mariners is just as enjoyable for the local lad - as is helping ensure Arnold has as many players to pick from as possible each weekend.
“It-s great to be able to apply what I have learned from my experiences at my hometown Club,” Nealon says.
“From the moment I arrived (at the Mariners) I was made to feel at home. My first impression was the amount of laughter I heard around the place, even during a tough pre-season.”
“In my job, whether there or here, you just do your best, work hard and try to make the best decisions possible.”
During his stay with Liverpool, Nealon worked under current Three Lions boss Roy Hodgson and ‘King- Kenny Dalglish.
The two seasons he spent at the world famous Club topped off his six year stay in the UK, which also included time at leading English County Cricket side Hampshire.
“We experienced so much more and stayed much longer than we ever imagined,” Nealon says of his time in Britain with his wife and young family.
“I had the privilege of working with a Liverpool team that won at Wembley and a Hampshire team that won at Lords. I didn-t think it could get any better than that, so we came home.”
“I grew up a Liverpool fan from the days of Craig Johnston winning the FA Cup in 1986 and did the tourist tour of Anfield as I thought that would be the only way I would ever see it.”
But as fate would have it, Nealon was to one day earn his place inside the inner sanctum of the five-time European Champions.
“When I arrived at Liverpool-s offices for my final interview for the job Kenny Dalglish got in the lift with me,” he says. “I had to pretend I could understand what he was saying!”
“Six months later he was the boss and 18 months after that I had to tell him I was leaving to come home.”
“There were many days I had to pinch myself and remember to take it all in, and then get back to work!”
“It-s a very special place and it was a privilege to experience and be a part of it.”
Nealon says his transition into his new role at the Mariners has been seamless thanks to the unique culture of the Club, the respect shown to each individual and the diligence with which each person goes about their daily tasks.
“It-s obvious that respect has been embedded in the culture of the Club and is a key factor in its success,” he says.
“Everyone knows their roles, enjoys them, does them well and their contribution is valued on and off the pitch.”