The Central Coast Mariners come into the 2018/19 A-League season with plenty of new faces (15 players, one new head coach, and potentially… one Usain Bolt).

Competition for spots looks fierce, particularly in midfield and up front as seven midfielders bid for three starting spots, and five strikers try to fit into one. The Mariners have recruited intelligently, replacing experienced men Alan Baro and Wout Brama with even more experience in Kalifa Cisse, Matt Simon and Michael McGlinchey.

They’ve finally got some strike power too, with Ross McCormack and Tommy Oar signing on at this exciting time for the club, all under new leadership with former championship-winning coach Mike Mulvey at the helm.

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Last Season:
A-League: 10th
FFA Cup: Round of 32

They’ll win the league because…

Although it seems like a long shot this season, imagine the headlines?!

The Mariners boast a VERY different squad to last season, so the woes of their wooden spoon campaign last year shouldn’t impact the side too much. If they are to win the league this season, it would likely be thanks to the firepower of Ross McCormack.

Scoring goals didn’t come easy for the yellow and navy last campaign, scoring a league-low 28 goals (and the worst in Mariners history). Their golden boot award was shared between Blake Powell and Connor Pain, both getting 4 goals.

Compare those stats to Ross McCormack, who alone scored 14 goals for Melbourne City. That’s half of the Mariners tally, and he only played half a season! Getting McCormack fit and firing with enough quality service from the Mariners midfield will be key to their success this season.

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They’ll be cellar dwellers because…

This is not an unusual term to be thrown around the Mariners in recent times, and the faithful on the Central Coast will be hoping it isn’t another season that promises so much, but delivers so little.

If the Mariners are to make it three wooden spoons in four years, it will likely be due to their frail defence. They conceded 49 goals last season, the fourth worst defensive record in their history.

Ben Kennedy remains between the sticks but has competition from Adam Pearce and youth prospect Joe Gauci. Alan Baro will be a huge loss, but they’re hoping former Premier League defender Kalifa Cisse can fill that void. Conceding goals will be the issue for the Mariners this season, not scoring them.

Talk around the water cooler… look smart in front of your colleagues with this valuable piece of information.

The first two rounds see potential Mariners debuts for players against their former clubs. The Mariners take on Brisbane in round one, giving Tommy Oar and Corey Gameiro the opportunity to get a shot at their former club.

Meanwhile round two sees Melbourne City make the trip up to Gosford, with the headline sure to be about Ross McCormack playing against City for the first time since his loan spell last campaign.

The off-season brought…

Plenty of fresh faces (15 players to be exact).

With fresh faces comes a fresh wave of optimism and interest on the Central Coast. No one delivered more global interest in not only the club, but the entire league than Olympic champion Usain Bolt.

The most important fresh face though is the coach, Mike Mulvey. He knows what it takes to win the league on a budget, and he will be demanding success this campaign, surely eyeing off a final’s appearance for the first time since the 2013/14 A-League season.

Key player

Not sure if I’ve given this guy a mention yet in this article, but Ross McCormack will be the key to success for the Mariners this season.

Along with Tommy Oar and Tom Hiariej, McCormack will have to be at his best if the Mariners are to make a finals appearance again in 2019. He’ll be kept honest, though, by the returning ‘Wizard of Woy Woy’ Matt Simon, who has been scoring goals for fun as the newly-appointed club captain.

One to watch

Aiden O’Neill. On the fringe of a Socceroos call up, the 20-year-old Burnley loanee will be very keen to impress the Central Coast.

Creating a midfield partnership with the experienced Dutchman Tom Hiariej will boost his development at the Mariners, and potentially boost the team up the ladder as well.

Add Tommy Oar to the equation and Aiden O’Neill may have the breakout season he requires for a Socceroos call-up and a more permanent role for Burnley when he returns at the end of his loan spell.

Ins and outs

IN: Jonathan ASPRO (Western Sydney Wanderers), Kalifa CISSE (BEC Tero Sasana, Thailand), Jack CLISBY (Western Sydney Wanderers), Corey GAMEIRO (Brisbane Roar), Joe GAUCI (West Torrens Birkalla SC, NPL), Peter KEKERIS (promoted), Josh MACDONALD (Wollongong Wolves, NPL), Ross MCCORMACK (loan, Aston Villa, England), Michael MCGLINCHEY (Wellington Phoenix), Matthew MILLAR (South Melbourne, NPL), Jordan MURRAY (APIA Leichardt, NPL), Tommy OAR (APOEL, Greece), Aiden O’NEILL (loan, Burnley, England), Matt SIMON (Sydney FC), Mario SHABOW (Newcastle Jets).

OUT: Alan BARO (released), Wout BRAMA (FC Twente, Netherlands), Josh BINGHAM (released), Trent BUHAGIAR (Sydney FC), Daniel DE SILVA (loan, Sydney FC), Tom GLOVER (loan expired from Tottenham Hotspur, England), Jacob POSCOLIERO (released), Blake POWELL (Ceres-Negros FC, Philippines), Joshua ROSE (retired), Liam ROSE (FC Ararat-Armenia, Armenia), Storm ROUX (Melbourne Victory), Peter SKAPETIS (Dandenong Thunder SC, NPL).

Full squad list

Goalkeepers – 1. Ben KENNEDY, 12. Adam PEARCE, 24. Joe GAUCI

Defenders – 2. Jonathan ASPRO, 3. Jack CLISBY, 4. Jake MCGING, 5. Anthony GOLEC, 15. Kye ROWLES, 18. Matthew MILLAR, 20. Kalifa CISSE

Midfielders – 6. Tom HIARIEJ, 7. Andrew HOOLE, 8. Michael MCGLINCHEY, 10. Tommy OAR, 13. Aiden O’NEILL, 14. Adam BERRY, 22. Jacob MELLING, 23. Mario SHABOW

Forwards – 11. Connor PAIN, 16. Josh MACDONALD, 17. Peter KEKERIS, 19. Matt SIMON, 21. Corey GAMEIRO, 25. Jordan MURRAY, 44. Ross MCCORMACK

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Media student at Macquarie University. Loves everything football (well, except Italian's diving since '06).