Mariners lay foundations for football's future

Central Coast Mariners’ establishment of a state league feeder team illustrates how the Gosford club continue to show their rivals how to plan for the future.

Central Coast Mariners- establishment of a feeder team in the NSW Premier League illustrates how the Gosford club continue to show the rest of the Hyundai A-League how to plan for the future.

Following the development of the club's impressive new training facilities at Tuggerah, the Mariners recently announced a partnership with Central Coast Football that will see a sharing of resources and a new feeder team playing in the NSW Premier League.

The result of several years of groundwork from former Mariners National Youth league coach Tony Walmsley, the Central Coast Mariners Academy (CCMA) team will feature a mix of local footballers, and available Mariners NYL and A-League players, training and playing out of an extensively refurbished Pluim Park.

The CCMA had previously existed as a junior side but with Central Coast Football returning to senior football, the team was selected to participate in the in the Premier League for the 2013 season.

As well as providing their own players with the chance to maintain their match fitness throughout the year, the Academy will also provide a development pathway for upcoming players who will be trained in line with the A-League club-s philosophies and standards.

Lawrie McKinna, the Mariners- director of football and now mayor of Gosford, says the formation of the Academy team is merely the formalisation of a long-standing but unofficial partnership, which will have benefits for both the club and the game on the Central Coast.

“We-ve had a good relationship with Central Coast Football from year one,” McKinna told

“Over the years we used to give them players back on loan - players like Nigel Boogaard, Matty Simon, players who hadn-t played a lot of football we-d put them down to play with Central Coast Football in the old Super League.

“It-ll be hard to give them [first-team] players at the start of their season because we-ve got the Asian Champions OLeague but we-ve spoken to Arnie and we-ll be looking to send down two or three players who haven-t played a lot of game time.

“I spoke to the youth team players last night, and we-ll be looking for between four-six of these guys to come up and play with the Academy squad. We see this as an ideal partnership and a pathway for players as well.

“The U-16s and U-17s will have a direct pathway and we-ll have involvement with them. The idea is that we get more Central Coast boys coming through as well.

“We name it, help resource it, and give our expertise -so it-s a great combination, which will help [Central Coast Football] be competitive without spending big money to match the Sydney clubs.”

The Academy team will also be more than just a production line of players; Graham Arnold and his coaches will also be passing on their knowledge to Academy staff and will be able to monitor the development of young and fringe players over a period of time.

“Once everything gets put in place, Arnie wants the boys to come down to training to see how he does things, to see his philosophy of the game,” MicKinna said.

“It-s an open door situation where these people can come down to watch training, ask questions, and see what happens and what Arnie-s trying to do. We-re always learning not matter how old you are.

“Say for instance the youth league players, these guys will be up there training while we-re training for the ACL so they-ll be getting a chance to train with the first team. And on the other hand we-ll be getting local boys that are doing well in the Premier League team, they-ll get invited in.”

The Mariners F3 derby rivals Newcastle Jets unveiled a similar project in their “Emerging Jets Program” in September, but McKinna says the already long-standing relationship between the Bluetongue club and Central Coast Football means the Academy team is the ideal combination of hard work and situation, which will have long-lasting benefits for football in the region.

“We-ve had this process going for more than a year now and having the senior team that we can put players in is probably the ideal set-up.

"Let-s say six of our youth players come up they play in the senior competition under the eyes of our coaches; they play NYL team next year and then they might be 19 and we-ve already been watching them for a year-and-a-half and it gives these boys a chance to get picked up for an A-League contract.

“Other teams should do it but we-re lucky we-re in a region we can do it. Who are Sydney going to do it with? If they go with Marconi, they-re going to upset Sydney United, Bonnyrigg... We-ve got the ideal situation that we-re one region, one team.”

Defending A-League premiers, purpose-built training facilities the envy of the competition and a state league feeder team that further strengthens an already impressive youth pathway; it-s a vision of how a football club should be run in Australia.