New Caledonia no holiday for the Mariners

CENTRAL Coast Mariners departed to the pacific paradise of New Caledonia on Tuesday to face off against Les Cagous twice in the next five days.

Jacques Haeko

CENTRAL Coast Mariners departed to the pacific paradise of New Caledonia on Tuesday to face off against Les Cagous twice in the next five days.

As appealing as it may sound, New Caledonia will be no holiday for the Mariners as coach Graham Arnold plans to utilise the opportunity of a camp situation to work at a more in depth level with his players.

Beyond the training benefits of a camp set-up, the mini-tour will also give the teams new boys, including youngsters Anthony Caceres, Mitchell Duke and Jimmy Oates further opportunity to embed themselves within the squad.

“It is a great opportunity to get into a camp situation; a bit of team building and team bonding,” Arnold said.

“It-s a great opportunity to play two games against the New Caledonian national team and get a couple of games in the boys- legs.”

Perhaps an unfamiliar name in world football, the New Caledonian national team is coming off the back of some great form in their recent matches at the Oceania Nations Cup - a tournament that doubled as a round of OFC Qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

The French speaking New Caledonians recently did what 2006 World Cup winners Italy failed to do in the 2010 World Cup - defeat Oceanic heavyweights New Zealand. The match ended 2-0 in favour of New Caledonia.

New Caledonia will prove a tough test for the Mariners as they are getting ready for their biggest test against the All Whites to be played on September 7. With games against Solomon Islands and Tahiti to follow, New Caledonia will know a good result against Ricki Herbert-s men is fundamental to their hopes of advancing to Brazil 2014.

“This trip is all about them and not us,” Arnold said. “They know we won the league last season and are after some quality games and it is a great honour for the Central Coast Mariners to be invited across.”

The Mariners must be wary of their pacific opponents and one of the attacking outlets that coach Alain Moizan will look to utilise is Jacques Haeko. Haeko found the back of the net six times at the recent OFC Nations Cup to finish as the competitions top scorer.

“It-s probably come a couple of weeks too early for us,” Arnold said. “We-re not really that ready in this moment of time for that type of opposition ... they-re the ones that have to prepare for that New Zealand game. It will be a good work out for us.”

The unique preseason move by the Mariners coaching staff proves that innovation could be crucial to the Mariners success in Season 8 of the Hyundai A-League, and the large squad the former Qantas Socceroos boss has taken will allow everyone the chance at game time.

“We are taking 18 players across so we will be able to change players regularly over the two games,” he concluded.

The friendly matches against New Caledonia will take place on Thursday and Saturday this week.

Central Coast Mariners will begin their pre-season games on Australian soil on Wednesday 29 August against Bankstown City at Jensen Park, Sefton. Please visit the Mariners online CALENDAR regularly for the latest pre-season game updates and information.