Mariners boss ‘gobsmacked’ as epic Asian first exposes ‘important’ Aussie football truth

Mark Jackson and Mikael Doka fronted the media after Central Coast Mariners won the AFC Cup.

In the eyes of Mark Jackson, Central Coast Mariners winning the AFC Cup was not only big for the A-Leagues club but also for Australian football.

The treble-chasing Mariners continued their incredible season by claiming a continental title for the first time in their history thanks to a 1-0 victory against Lebanon’s Al-Ahed in Oman on Monday (AEST).

After clinching the Isuzu UTE A-League Premiership for the first time in 12 years last week, Central Coast became just the second Australian club to conquer Asia after Western Sydney Wanderers won the 2014 AFC Champions League.

HISTORY! Treble-chasing Central Coast Mariners claim AFC Cup title

Australia also becomes the first and only AFC member federation to win the traditional big four competitions – AFC Cup (Central Coast Mariners 2024), AFC Champions League (Western Sydney Wanderers 2014), AFC Asian Cup (Socceroos 2015) and AFC Women’s Asian Cup (Matildas 2010).

“This is not only big for our club and supporters but also very big for Australia,” Mariners head coach Jackson told reporters post-match.

“We haven’t had a lot of success in recent years. I think we’re only the second team to be successful in AFC competition.

“For Australian football, it shows we can compete with the best teams in Asia. That’s very important for Australia as a country.”

The Mariners will now turn their attention to trying to defend their Isuzu UTE A-League Championship crown with Sydney FC awaiting in a two-legged Semi-Final, starting Friday night at Allianz Stadium.

“We have won two titles. We want to win three,” said Jackson.

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Prior to the press conference, the Central Coast boss was lost for words out on the field at Sultan Qaboos Sport Complex in Muscat.

“I’m gobsmacked. I always knew we could come here and get the win. It was a really difficult game against a great opponent but we have full belief in the boys,” Jackson told Football Australia.

“It’s a fantastic achievement for the lads, the staff, everybody at the club and the supporters too.”

“We’ve done the double. It’s unbelievable.”

Mariners skipper Danny Vukovic produced a fine save to deny Al-Ahed striker Lee Erwin in the first half before Alou Kuol came off the bench to score the winner in the 84th minute.

“A fantastic save from Vuka. Again, again. Outstanding,” said Jackson.

“He is fantastic. What a leader for this football club and long may that continue. He is superb to have in the team. He leads by example and when we need him, he produces the goods.”

The Mariners not only took home the trophy but swept the AFC Cup awards.

Central Coast were awarded the Fair Play Award, former Mariners star Marco Tulio – who left for Japan in January – claimed the Golden Boot and Mikael Doka was named MVP for the tournament.

“That’s the Mariners way. That’s what we want to try and create,” Jackson said. “We want to create a high-performing team and I think we’re well on our way in doing that.

“We know we have to rebuild from time to time because players leave us for bigger things, in all due respect to us and the football club. We know we have to rebuild but we’re putting things in place where we can do it successfully.”

Central Coast’s latest achievement continues their incredible transformation over the past 18 months.

The Mariners were in the doldrums for years after winning the Championship in 2013, sitting at the bottom of the Isuzu UTE A-League standings.

But the Mariners are now the toast of the competition having ended their drought last season and conquering Asia this term thanks to a model that is the awe of their rivals.

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“It’s a massive achievement for such a small club. So happy for the players, supporters, sponsors. Really happy for the coaching staff,” Central Coast chairman Richard Peil told Football Australia.

“We are the smallest club. We don’t have resources like the big guys so we have to call upon other things. We work really hard in the sports science department to try to produce the best athletes we can.

“Community is a massive part of why we’ve been successful. Community and culture.

“That’s one of the reasons we appointed (Mark Jackson) because in his interview he spoke at length about culture and how culture can outweigh big salaries. He knew what he was coming here to work with. He knew he didn’t have big money to spend.

“So happy for him, Danny (Schofield), Simo (Matt Simon), Andres (Clavijo) etc. Really happy for the head office too, the support office team. They don’t get the accolades like the others do but they work their butts off. So happy for them.”