In July last year, Hayden Morton was scoring a decisive quarter final goal on his way to lifting the Waratah Cup with the Sutherland Sharks. Now, just seven months on, Morton is involved in an even bigger cup run after receiving a two-year first team deal just before the Central Coast Mariners Asian Champions League campaign began.
Morton has made an incredibly quick rise up the ranks from the New South Wales Premier League, impressing in the National Youth League this season and earning a call-up from Graham Arnold.

“The pace is a lot faster and the physicality; the decision time… you don’t have much time on the ball. But when I played my debut the boys made it a lot easier for me especially the good players around the ball,” Morton said.

The Central Coast Mariners have proved themselves as one of the best hubs for a developing footballer to ply their trade in Australia, and having had one of the most solid defences in the A-League these past few seasons the benefits of playing at Gosford as a young defender for the next two years is clear.

“It’s been a great experience,” Morton said about training with the Mariners defence.

“Especially day in day out with Pedj Bojic, Zwany [Patrick Zwaanswijk], Rosey [Joshua Rose] and Sains [Trent Sainsbury], I’ve learnt a lot from them and I’ve taken a lot from training and just trying to focus my game around the good things Pedj does and put them into games.”

Morton made his debut for the Mariners in December during their 1-0 loss to Sydney FC, and with the three time Premiers facing a difficult end to the A-League season with the battle for first place heating up, Morton is hopeful of being able to receive further opportunities from Graham Arnold.

“He’s been great to me. Especially for the young boys, he gives them opportunities as he’s shown and I’ve taken a lot from him” Morton explained.

“I’m hoping, especially for the first year, to learn the chops, get a few starts and when I get these opportunities take them well and push for a starting birth next season.”

“I’m hoping to get at least one game,” Hayden Morton said about the Asian Champions League.

“We’ll just see because it’s a tough competition with the A-League and the ACL at the same time, so you hope it won’t happen but there’s bound to be injuries here and there.

“If I get my opportunity then I can’t wait to step up and take it.”

Morton is well aware of the difficulty in backing up on the weekend following midweek fixtures after starring for Robbie Stanton’s Sutherland Sharks at just 17 years old during their Waratah Cup success. There, alongside Sydney FC striker Blake Powell, Morton got his first taste of success in knockout football.

“Winning competitions is what you want to do; it’s hard playing mid week games and backing up on the weekend so hopefully I can used to that experience and take it with me to the Champions League.”

It’s these experiences that Morton will carry with him in to the Champions League. Having already played overseas with the Australia Under 20’s side, Morton is no stranger to playing on the road and dealing with all that comes with it.

It’s the faith in young players from the Mariners that enables the club to become an attractive prospect for a developing footballer. Morton’s swift growth from the state leagues into the Asian Champions League squad is just another example of how this community club can offer its players incredible opportunities.

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