Stefan Nigro raring to go for season opener

New Mariners signing Stefan Nigro says he can’t wait for the blockbuster season opener on New Year’s Eve against the Jets.

Nigro was announced on Wednesday as the newest signing by Alen Stajcic for the A-League 20/21 season and has settled in well since arriving last month for a trial with the squad.

“I felt they [Mariners] were a great fit for me from the first day, and the first game I played soon after arriving I enjoyed playing in the system,” he told Football Nation Radio on Friday morning.

“The players were so welcoming, and the coaches were great, and I believe in what they’re doing here. Alen [Stajcic] has been so welcoming, I think he’s a great coach, I believe in what he’s doing and we’re all just looking forward to getting started.”

Nigro was meant to be playing in the NPL Victoria this year with Green Gully, who he praised for their professionalism and the chance they provided him, but that was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 24-year-old had set himself the goal of returning to the A-League, albeit with no firm timeline, but jumped at the chance to trial after getting in contact with the Mariners and headed to Darwin to quarantine for two weeks with Victoria still under border restrictions at that time.

“Central Coast was the main one [interested]. I got in contact with the club and we had a couple of chats, obviously the borders were a little bit of an issue but the best way to combat that was to just do the two weeks quarantine,” he said on Friday.

“I wouldn’t change that for the world, because we all go through different things to get to where we want to go in our football careers.”

“It was an interesting experience, but I wouldn’t change it for anything, there wasn’t a specific timeline [to be back in A-League] but I had the belief that my hard work would pay off.”

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Oliver Bozanic, who Nigro made his A-League debut alongside in his stint at Victory, was someone the fullback reached out to before his trial, and Nigro said he is looking forward to playing alongside Bozanic and a host of other Mariners talents.

“I think he [Oli] is a great player, I have a lot of respect for him. He was one who I contacted when I found out I was coming here. He’s a top player and has spent time overseas, and he’s a leader who can teach the younger boys in every position so much.”

“Danny DeSilva, I played against him as a youngster and I think he’s a great talent, he’s great on the ball so he is someone I look forward to playing with as well.”

“I think there’s a lot of good young players, you saw that in them winning the NPL, they are good young players that I hadn’t met before but also guys like Mark Birighitti, he’s a top goalkeeper having played against him, but I think there’s a good mixture of young and experienced players.”

For now, Nigro’s focus is firmly on round one and making his A-League return in front of fans as the league gets set to fire up in a couple of weeks.

“To be honest we’re just embracing it [this season] for what it is.”

“I know for everyone around the world, it has been a year of adversity but there’s a buzz around the season starting, our game is on New Year’s Eve, we’re having fans back, that stuff is going to be great.”

“It will be great to see young talent get an opportunity, I know when I watched the games post-COVID you could see that and I think we’re all just really excited for it to start. Pre-season is good but everyone looks forward to the real thing starting.”

“There’s no better way to start the season than a derby. We’re all excited, we can’t wait.”

Meanwhile, pre-season preparations continued on Friday night for the Mariners with a 3-1 win over NPL outfit APIA Leichardt at Valentine Sports Park.

Matt Simon, Josh Nisbet and Alou Kuol all got on the scoresheet and the Mariners next hit out will be next Sunday at Central Coast Stadium against the Young Socceroos Talent Identification squad.

Make sure you get your tickets now, and stay for Carols on the Coast afterwards!