NPL Countdown: Fixtures, squad & transition from Y-League

With the Central Coast Mariners Academy NPL season almost upon us, we caught up with Head Coach Ray Junna to discuss the transition from Y-League to NPL as well as provide our supporters with fixture & squad information.

Our Central Coast Mariners Academy NPL Women kick-off their season at home on Sunday, 10 March, stay tuned for their season preview.

For the men, trial games away from home against Blacktown City (NPL 1) and the Western Sydney Wanderers Academy will provide two crucial tests and final hit outs before the season proper.

After an impressive Y-League season which saw Ray Junna’s team record five wins from eight games, his team are now fronted with a prime opportunity of a 26-game season to develop and play together.

With a new Y-League coaching staff in: Ray Junna, Steve O’Connor and Grant Lee appointed at the start of the new season, the task ahead was a major challenge for both results and development

The Y-League season gave the new-look coaching staff a chance to assess the current crop of youth players at the club and implement a development approach which assessed the players' physical capacity. This included the introduction of physical testing thanks to new relationship formed with the University of Newcastle’s Exercise and Sport Science faculty.

We caught up with Junna who provided an update on the academy space.

Reflection on the Y-League season…
“For us, the NYL was a lot about identifying the players we have at the club who can make that transition into the A-League,” Junna said. “It’s a double-edged sword as the competition is also used for A-League players who aren’t getting game time in the A-League or players coming back from injury like Jonathan Aspropotamitis.

“With that in mind it’s difficult to have a Y-League team who will play a consistent number of games on the trot. Getting consistency in young players is difficult but the Y-League allowed us to see who could step into Mike Mulvey’s squad.

Balancing development with results…
“We could say we are developing players and results come second, but results are a big part of the development. So, understanding how to win games is just as important.

“The physical component of the game we can test and monitor. In terms of speed test, power tests, vertical jumps, endurance tests. We test them, see their physical profile and do that 3 or 4 times a year so we have a picture of what each player is like physically. Then along with that comes technical and tactical.

“The physical component isn’t the be all and end all, but it’s key.

“The NPL is fantastic – it’s 30 odd games. The hardest thing I’ve found for young kids during my coaching experience is consistent game time. You’re teaching them how to become a consistent performer and consistent behaviours, getting that continuity of play is important.

“Consistent game time is how you improve, it’s putting yourself under consistent pressure to improve your performance and the NPL gives the club that opportunity,” Junna said.