Mariners focussed on youth development

Central Coast Mariners National Youth League (NYL) program has flown under the radar somewhat over the last two seasons, despite evidence indicating the club is home to one of the best nurseries of youth talent in Australia.

Central Coast Mariners National Youth League (NYL) program has flown under the radar somewhat over the last two seasons, despite evidence indicating the club is home to one of the best nurseries of youth talent in Australia.

Last season the Mariners finished second after the regular season, while in 2009/10 the team topped the NYL ladder.

These consistent showings combined with the fact the club has nurtured individual talents such as Qantas Young Socceroos striker Bernie Ibini-Isei to the golden boot award, and goalkeeper Mathew Ryan to NAB Young Footballer of the Year further highlight the clubs capacity to develop aspiring footballers.

Having taken charge of the Mariners first team a year ago, Head Coach Graham Arnold said he-s been impressed not only with the clubs results at youth level, but more importantly their overall performance and progress as footballers.

“The club has been at the forefront of development since the A-League kicked off,” Arnold said. “Our Academy program extends beyond our local boundaries to take in players from Western NSW and Sydney, and further projects are under discussion in more isolated areas as we continue to cast our player catchment net wide.”

“In saying that, we-re actively looking to provide an avenue for the youth players of the Central Coast region to develop into professionals at their home town club.”

In addition to Ibini-Isei, other Mariners to have enjoyed success from the programs include AIS scholar and former Mariners Academy member Connor Chapman who is currently in Mexico as captain of the Qantas Joeys at the FIFA U17s World Cup, and Marc Warren who recently signed a deal with sister club Sheffield United.

Indeed, Mariners Youth Team Coach Tony Walmsley is the man charged with leading the clubs talent identification and structures, and with the Central Coast located between the major centres of Newcastle and Sydney, Walmsley said one his greatest challenges is geography.

“We have to recruit smart and strategically structure training sessions to suit the education and work commitments of players in order to get the best out of everyone involved,” Walmsley said.

“To finish above both Sydney FC and Newcastle Jets over the past two seasons is not one of our benchmarks, but certainly represents an achievement in terms of recruitment.”

“In order to achieve our aims we have had to be one step ahead of our neighbours and build partnerships with schools, clubs and venues to deliver a viable NYL program.”

Having previously held roles as Academy Director of the official Manchester United Youth Development Program throughout Oceania, as well as high level appoints with the Queensland Football Federation, Football Tasmania and the New South Wales Institute of Sport, Walmsley is well equipped to drive the Mariners program to even greater success.

“We have outperformed most in the competition over the past two seasons and it is a constant challenge to keep the group moving forward, but it-s extremely rewarding when players progress to the next level,” he said.

This season the Mariners youth retention and recruitment process is well underway, with several key signings soon to be announced pending the formal signing of FFA development agreements.

With the NSW Premier League finishing earlier this season too, Walmsley said he is confident the Mariners NYL squad of 2011/12 will thrive in the new, condensed 18 round league.

“Getting off to a positive start is essential,” Walmsley said. “Last year we managed great results with a short preparation, and this season we-ll have a decent window to get the boys together in the lead up, while also allowing them a short period of recovery from their state league seasons.”

Head Coach Graham Arnold has a long history working with youth players, and last season he showed his philosophy by utilising the likes of Ibini-Isei, Mustafa Amini and Trent Sainsbury in his Hyundai A-League side.

With the Mariners Sydney Academy soon to start under the guidance of former Socceroo Paul Wade and NYL Assistant Coach John McLafferty, and talks of a partnership with Central Coast Football at an advanced stage, Arnold may soon have a host of new talents to add to his first team list.

“I-m proud of where we are at as a club at all levels, from the first team down,” Walmsley said. “But we need to continue to challenge ourselves to be better at every level and the biggest challenge is to manage the expectations of young players, to keep their feet on the ground and work hard enough to make a difference and get noticed by Arnie and the first team staff.”

The Central Coast Mariners NYL management is looking to conduct a closed trial for selected player in the July School Holidays with dates and venues to be announced to selected footballers shortly.

Players interested in trialling for the club at youth level or joining the Mariners development programs are asked to visit and/or e-mail