NPL Preview: Finals Football for all  

It’s a Grand Final frenzy this weekend for the Mariners Academy women in the NPL2, with the first team taking on Sydney Olympic FC in the biggest match of the season and the U17s and U15s also qualifying for their Grand Finals. The Academy men’s NPL 2 season is at the pointy end who face Northern Tigers FC in the elimination semi-final this Saturday.

GRAND FINAL: Central Coast Mariners Academy Women vs. Sydney Olympic FC

This weekend is Grand Final time for the Mariners Academy women! After a thrilling 2-1 victory against the SD Raiders in the preliminary final, the Academy first team will face Sydney Olympic FC in what is set to be the most exciting clash of their season.

For the very last game of a highly competitive finals series, it’s fitting that the Grand Final will feature the Mariners and Olympic. Both teams had standout performances across the season, and proved themselves the best that the competition had to offer by finishing second and first respectively on the ladder.

The Mariners have taken on Sydney Olympic twice before. They fell 5-2 back in round six, but it was a very different story last month, where the Mariners Academy took a 4-0 victory against the previously undefeated Olympic squad. Head Coach Dan Barrett is confident they can do it again. 

“We’ve got to do what we did last time we played them,” Barrett said. “I’ll give my girls one thing: when it counts, and it’s a big game, we see the best out of these guys. They’re a side that hates losing, and does everything they can to stay in games and everything they can to win games, and they all do it for each other.

“In all the years that I’ve coached, this is probably the tightest knit group that I’ve had in regards to the way they look after each other and the way that they support each other.” He said. “I think that’s been the difference, and I think we’ll be counting on that this weekend, that everyone does their job and looks after each other.

“Are we good enough? 100 per cent.” Barrett said. “On any day, we’re definitely the best team in the competition, no matter where we finished in the league. We beat them 4-0 last time, and there is nothing saying we can’t do that again this weekend.”

In such an evenly-matched fight, the Academy women will have to give everything they’ve got to be crowned the 2018 NPL 2 Championship Winners – an achievement that Barrett believes would be a triumph not only for the Academy, but also for women’s football on the Central Coast.

“A grand final win would mean a lot.” Barrett said. “The plan is always to win and be successful, but to do it first year in would be massive.

“I think it would be a massive shot in the arm for women’s football on the Central Coast if these girls can come away champions.” He said. “The girls know that, they understand that, and they’ve been running with that all year. I think it would mean a lot to the team.

“These girls have also become role models for our younger players – we have under 14s that arrive at seven-thirty in the morning and they’re still there at six or seven o’clock at night to watch the first team play. So, it would mean a lot to them, and it would mean a lot for the first graders to be able to give a win for the juniors as well. It would be massive, huge.” Barrett said.

Match Details
Sunday, 2 September 2018
NSW NPL 2 Grand Final
Match:
Central Coast Mariners’ Academy Women vs. Sydney Olympic FC
Venue: Valentine Sports Park
Kick-off: 5:15pm

There’s never been a shortage of young talent on the Central Coast, but one particular young gun made a huge impact on the first-grade game last weekend. Iona Snape is only 15, but she scored the goal against the Raiders that sent the Academy through to the Grand Final. Dan Barrett spoke highly of the talented youngster, and how her success reflects the Academy’s potential.

“Iona is in the position to give herself the best chance of doing everything that she wants to do in the game.” Barrett said. “She’s certainly a talent, she’s a wonderful girl. She’s very level-headed and she just comes in every week and always wants to be better.” He said. “I guess that’s the difference between someone like Iona and players that don’t go all the way, they maybe have the attitude that they already know everything. Iona is certainly not that, she’s always looking to improve and do better.”

“The winning goal was hit by one of our 15 year old players.” Barrett said. “That’s when I talk about the longevity and the success that this program can have, when you’ve got a 15-year-old who can go out there in such a big moment and take the game by the scruff of the neck and put you into the Grand Final, that probably says more about the Academy than anything, I think.” He said.

As well as a victory for first grade, there was also plenty of success in the Academy’s younger grades last week to celebrate. 1-0 wins for the U15s and U17s have sent them through to their Grand Finals, both teams set to face the Marconi Stallions on the weekend. That’s three out of five Mariners Academy women’s teams through to Grand Finals, an outstanding achievement for the Academy and Dan Barrett.

“I’m extremely proud.” Barrett said. “I’m proud of all the teams, everyone made it to the semi-finals, four out of the five made it to one game away from the Grand Final, and three have made it into the Grand Final, so I couldn’t be prouder.”

“I’m proud of our volunteers as well, our coaching staff, who have been absolutely superb, and the players, who have just been so open to learning and giving everything that they can, every weekend, so I’m extremely proud – delighted.” Barrett said.

ELIMINATION SEMI-FINAL: Central Coast Mariners Academy vs. Northern Tigers FC

It was a weekend of mixed emotions for the Mariners Academy men. Whilst the U18s and U20s ended the season as Minor Premiers, the first team fell 2-0 to Hills United and finished in fourth place on the competition ladder. However, they have still qualified for the finals, and so the Academy men now look ahead to an Elimination Semi-Final clash against Northern Tigers FC.

The Academy have played the fifth-placed Northern Tigers twice this season and won both matches 4-0 and 1-0, but it’s vital that they take a win on Saturday to keep their finals campaign alive.

After finishing first on the ladder in their competitions, the U18s and U20s are straight through to the Major Semi Finals which will take place next weekend.

Match Details
Saturday, 1 September 2018
NSW NPL 2 Elimination Semi-Final
Match:
Central Coast Mariners’ Academy vs. Northern Tigers FC
Venue: Valentine Sports Park
Kick-off: 6:30pm