Master Mariner Wilkinson signs on for two

The Central Coast Mariners have received a massive boost on the eve of their Hyundai A-League match up against southern rivals Sydney FC, with club stalwart and inspirational captain Alex Wilkinson re-signing with the reigning Premiers for a further two seasons.

The Central Coast Mariners have received a massive boost on the eve of their Hyundai A-League match up against southern rivals Sydney FC, with club stalwart and inspirational captain Alex Wilkinson re-signing with the reigning Premiers for a further two seasons.

Wilkinson, one of ten foundation players still wearing the Mariners crest, turned down substantial offers from several of the Mariners- current and future Hyundai A-League rivals to remain on the Central Coast, where the 24-year-old former youth international has been a cornerstone contributor to all that the Mariners have achieved in over three Hyundai A-League seasons.

Few players embody the spirit and character of the Mariners better than Wilkinson, who has amazingly missed only nine of the club-s 101 competitive fixtures since mid-2005 - totaling 92 appearances across nine competitions that includes starts in two Hyundai A-League Grand Finals, two Pre-Season Cup Finals and the historic first final of the new era of Australian football - May 2005-s Club World Championships qualifying series playoff.

The Mariners- most capped player in both the Hyundai A-League and all competitive fixtures, Wilkinson is commonly regarded as one of the Hyundai A-League-s premier young defenders and most exceptional international prospects, having accumulated dozens of Australian caps at restricted age levels and having been called up to several Socceroos training squads in recent years.

Wilkinson now joins fellow long-term signings Pedj Bojic, Nigel Boogaard, Adrian Caceres, Ahmad Elrich, Dean Heffernan, John Hutchinson, Mile Jedinak, Dylan Macallister, Bradley Porter, Matt Simon and Danny Vukovic for the Mariners- maiden AFC Champions League campaign and beyond, with the Mariners- captain set to remain on the Central Coast until at least 2011.

"Today is a very significant day for the Mariners - Alex has been the subject of some transfer speculation for the past few weeks and we-re absolutely delighted that a player and character of such quality has agreed to stay with the Mariners for the long-term," said Mariners Executive Chairman Lyall Gorman.

"Alex is a real crowd favourite at Bluetongue Stadium and an integral part of every facet of our club.

"Alex-s on and off field contributions have been a cornerstone of our clubs successes to date and I-m certain that our Members and supporters will agree that Alex-s signing will be a major boost to our inaugural AFC Champions League campaign and future Hyundai A-League seasons."

As Mariners captain, Wilkinson has shown maturity, leadership and discipline beyond his years, exemplified by an outstanding disciplinary record that reads just six yellow cards in all competitive fixtures since his debut match - an astonishing return for a central defender.

At the Sydney Football Stadium on Saturday, Wilkinson will wear the captain-s armband in a competitive fixture for the Mariners for the 39th time, with the Mariners recording 17 wins, 8 draws and 13 losses with Wilkinson at the helm.

Wilkinson will become the captain to have worn the armband the most times in a competitive fixture for the Mariners in fifteen matches time - inaugural skipper Noel Spencer currently topping that chart with 52 starts as Mariners captain.

"I-m personally delighted to have extended my stay at the Mariners for another two Hyundai A-League seasons, which with the addition of an AFC Champions League campaign represents a very exciting challenge for our club and its players," said Wilkinson.

"The atmosphere and culture here at the Mariners is something very special and one that appeals to any player in the country and with this in mind, it was always my absolute preference to remain on the Central Coast and further contribute to what has been an already unforgettable journey.

"On and off the field, the Mariners are going places and it-s very exciting and re-assuring to know that I-ll be a part of this for the long-term.

"For now, we have our Hyundai A-League Premiership defence to focus our energies on and with my playing future now secured, I-m eager to get on the pitch with my team-mates and firstly claim three points against Sydney FC on Saturday and then look forward to an exciting future for the Mariners, the Hyundai A-League and Australian football."

The Mariners- Hyundai A-League campaign continues at the Sydney Football Stadium home of southern rivals Sydney FC on Saturday, 1 November. Kick off is at 7pm.

The Mariners will return to their Bluetongue Stadium home on Saturday, 15 November, when they host AFC Champions League finalists Adelaide United. Kick off is at 7.30pm.

Tickets for this match are on sale from Ticketek outlets, from the Ticketek website - www.ticketek.com.au, or via phone on 132 849.