Isuzu UTE A-League season preview: Central Coast

Enjoy KEEPUP’s season countdown with our club-by-club previews. Scroll down to the foot of the page to access your club’s article.

Mariners fans could be forgiven for thinking the last season was a dream, especially with the coach and several players involved in the club’s unlikely renaissance having moved on. 

After so many years stuck near the bottom of the ladder, the Central Coast were top for much of the season and made the finals – the question is whether that was just a brief spell of sunshine or the team can continue to go head to head with better-resourced rivals.

Major ins: Nicolai Müller, Cy Goddard, Bèni Nkololo, Moresche Rodrigues

Major outs: Jordan Smylie, Gianni Stensness, Daniel De Silva, Jack Clisby, Alou Kuol, Stefan Nigro

Coach: Nick Montgomery

Mariners record: n/a

After a lengthy coaching apprenticeship, the Yorkshireman who came to the Central Coast to play for a year and ended up staying now has the tough ask of sustaining Alen Stajcic’s Mariners revival, in his first year as a head coach. 

Montgomery succeeds Stajcic with a number of last season’s key performers having moved on, and much will depend on the impact his visa acquisitions can have, especially going forward. Montgomery isn’t given to grand gestures, but his remodelled side needs to make an impact quickly.

Mariners boss Nick Montgomery is in his first year as a head coach.

Can’t take your eyes off: Cy Goddard

On paper Goddard’s CV looks more meandering than mesmerising, and yet he counts a number of EPL stars among the cohort he used to be part of at Tottenham during his years in the academy. 

Having sampled Serie B, the Cypriot first division and latterly the Indian Super League – where he won the league with Mumbai City – since he moved on from Spurs, Goddard has been signed by the Mariners with a view to replacing the creativity of Daniel De Silva. Bizarrely his switch to Australia was encouraged by Sydney FC striker Adam Le Fondre, a teammate at Mumbai last season.

Reasons to be cheerful

Last year proved that a well-organised side with a positive mentality could mix it with everyone, especially amidst the restrictions that COVID-19 inevitably brought. 

Getting off on the right foot in the opening game of the season was hugely important – the defeat of F3 rivals Newcastle giving an early taste of Alou Kuol’s immense talent – and will be again for a Mariners team that needs to convince itself as much as anyone else that they have held their own in terms of recruitment and retention.

Ruon Tongyik was a defensive rock last season.

The spine of the team is still in place from back to front; goalkeeper Mark Birighitti, midfielder Oliver Bozanic and captain Matt Simon are proper leaders, while the centreback pairing of Ruon Tonyik and Kye Rowles contributed to the third most miserly defence of last season (Rowles earning an Olympic call-up in the process).

Having run the club’s academy, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Montgomery has promoted the club’s youth including in-house products Jacob Farrell and Harry Steele.

… and reasons to be fearful

They say that hope springs eternal but Mariners fans could be forgiven for living in a state of perpetual pessimism after a very difficult few years until last season’s surprise resurgence. The raw power of striker Alou Kuol’s debut season was a major part of that and his exit to move to Germany was no great surprise – but he still needs replacing. 

To that end much depends on Brazilian striker Moresche, most recently playing in the Singapore Premier League, and on Montgomery coaxing more influential performances out of German attacker Nikolai Muller than he was able to manage at the Wanderers.

Fans Eye – by Erin Morrow

Why we believe: We love the club because we’re proud to live on the Central Coast. In the famous words of Simon Hill – we’re “the smallest club with the biggest heart” and the battling underdog tag suits us and represents us well. We’re not like the other clubs and we take great pride in that and believe in that uniqueness. Our favourite yellow faithful fan chant right now is “we are the Coasties, the Yellow Army, no one rates us, and we don’t care”. It’s a sentiment that encapsulates who we are and how we’re happy to be perceived

Who we believe: The player we love the most right now would be local lad Matt Simon. He’s our all time leading goal scorer, one time Mariners medalist and multiple club golden boot winner. The things we love the most about Matty are that he is a true local, finding his way into the Mariners through our local representative system and his passionate family values and brand of football are, again, truly representative of who we are and what we Coasties are about.

Matt Simon isn’t just captain of the Mariners but a crowd favourite too.

The magic of match day is: catching up with our friends and family, often from multiple generations. Many of our original fans now have their kids and their kids’ kids joining the experience. Before the game we pump ourselves up by test firing the iconic cannon while reading our also iconic The Loose Cannon match day paper. At half time kids (of all ages) bolt from the stands down on to the practice pitch to kick balls around, reliving the action with their friends and family. Match day for me is something I do with my brother and my nephew and I have a daughter and two grandchildren who are members. There are many others with similar families of members enjoying the games together

If I could change one thing about our club it would be …. Nothing! Our team represents us proudly as the hardworking battlers we are, punching above our weight. We don’t have much but we make the best of it. We have one of the most iconic stadiums and settings in the world, with the famous inflatable Masterfoods giant sauce bottles positioned in front of the palm trees while we sit in the stands overlooking the beautiful Brisbane Waters. Why would anyone want to change any of it?


By Tom Smithies and Matt Comito

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Central Coast Mariners: A renaissance or brief ray of sunshine?

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Melbourne City: Can anyone stop the champions?

Melbourne Victory: Can Popa resurrect the fallen giant?

Newcastle Jets: Can Papas find success with another overhaul?

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Sydney FC: A familiar feel in Sky Blue – do they have another gear?

Wellington Phoenix: Can the ‘Nix thrive early doors based in Wollongong?

Western Sydney Wanderers: Will Robinson rise to expectations?

Western United: Will more ‘Dia’ magic help United bounce back?