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Season Preview 2015/16: Central Coast Mariners

How soon things can change. Just a few years ago, the Central Coast Mariners – under the tutelage of Graham Arnold – were flying high. Two Grand Final appearances, one premiership and one championship had the entire Central Coast buzzing. But then it all changed. Arnold left, his deputy Phil Moss took over, and the good times came to an end in Gosford.

Now, it’s Tony Walmsley’s job to turn around a club that is crying out for a return to finals football. There’s been a substantial turnover of the playing stocks in the off-season, with the likes of Zac Anderson, Brent Griffiths, Matt Simon and Richard Vernes all departing the club, and John Hutchinson retiring and shifting across to a coaching role.

The inclusions, however, aren’t exactly high profile, and most don’t begin to replace the amount of experience that was let go in the off-season. Former Irish international Roy O’Donovan headlines the pack, with Dan Heffernan, Mitch Austin, Harry Ascroft and Jake McGing amongst the “youth brigade” brought in this season.

2014/15 wash-up

The Mariners finished in 8th place last year, recording just the 5 wins. Those 5 wins, however, all came on home turf, so one key task facing Tony Walmsley this year is to turn around the Mariners’ woeful away form.

102015/16 predictions

Our contributors and fans were asked for their ladder predictions going into the new season, and unfortunately it’s not good news for Mariners fans. The best prediction we received for Central Coast was in 7th place, and with an average ranking of 9.29, the Mariners bring up the rear in 10th on our adjusted ladder.

Ins & Outs

In Out
Harry Ascroft
Mitch Austin
Daniel Heffernan
Paul Izzo
Jake McGing
Roy O’Donovan
Zac Anderson
Isaka Cernak
Brent Griffiths
John Hutchinson
Travis Major
Hayden Morton
Dejan Pandurevic
Matt Simon
Tom Slater
Richard Vernes

Fixtures

Split: 14 home, 13 away.
Round 1: Home vs Perth Glory.
Rivalries/derbiesNewcastle Jets (2 home, 1 away), Sydney FC (2 home, 1 away), Western Sydney (2 home, 1 away).
Other Notes: Rejoice, Mariners fans! After being a notable absence from the fixture last season, the New Years Eve clash will this year be back in Gosford. First, though, the Central Coast boys will host Perth Glory, who will surely have a point to prove after the disastrous finish to their 2014/15 season. Curiously, the Mariners have decided to sell off their 14th home game (usually reserved for a regional fixture) to Melbourne Victory, with the game to now be hosted at Geelong’s Simonds Stadium in early January. Oh, and if you want to end your season on a high note, how about an F3 derby in round 27? Done!

Key Player

Irish striker Roy O’Donovan is the most well-known of the new Mariners, but with his last long term stint coming in Brunei (yes, that Brunei), it doesn’t exactly fill pundits with great confidence. But with the Mariners in desperate need of paths to goal (having scored the second-fewest goals in the A-League last season), O’Donovan is going to need to deliver in spades in 2015/16. Otherwise, it could be another dire season for the boys from Gosford.

One to watch

We’ve seen him rip it up for Heidelberg United in the FFA Cup, and we’re expecting even more from youngster Dan Heffernan in a Mariners shirt this season. In his first appearance in pre-season, Heffernan pocketed all three goals in a comprehensive 3-0 win against the Wanderers. That performance would’ve made the decision to sign Heffernan even easier for Tony Walmsley, as he came into the pre-season in desperate need of legitimate goal-scoring players. Here’s hoping that Heffernan can light it up in the A-League as he has in the NPL!

Obscure trivia

Through the first ten seasons of the A-League, the Mariners have only lost twice in the opening round (2006-07 & 2011-12).

About the author

avatarJustin is a passionate football fan, and the Editor-in-chief of Ultimate A-League.

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