‘For the community’: Mariners fans have waited more than eight years for final berth

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Central Coast Mariners’ fans have waited more than eight years for a grand final, and on Saturday they may get the chance to see their side lift silverware for the first time since 2013.

The side has recorded four wins, and 10 goals for, and only one against during the Cup to lead them to their first final in the club’s history. The Mariners have conquered an unbelievable feat, despite not playing a single game at home.

Take into account the uncertainty around COVID-19 changes and the young age of the squad, it shows the passion and determination the team has had during the campaign to reach the final against Melbourne Victory.

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A game of this atmosphere is uncommon for Mariners fans, as the last final the team competed in was their 2013 Championship victory over Western Sydney Wanderers.

A man with a lot of finals experience, Mariners coach Nick Montgomery, understands the challenge ahead against Victory and passed on his wishes for his side to enjoy the occasion.

“The message from me is just go out and enjoy it. You’ve got to go out and enjoy it because once the whistle goes it goes very quick,” he said.

“Number one objective is to go out and play the way we play. If we do, we’ve got every chance to come out on top.”

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Coming off a disappointing 3-2 loss against Sydney FC last Sunday afternoon, the hits kept coming.

Scottish import striker Jason Cummings’ FFA Cup exemption was rejected earlier in the week as the rule stipulate players must have been signed before the semi-finals, meaning he is not eligible to play in the final.

The Mariners were disappointed with Football Australia’s decision, after they moved their Cup semi-final forward amid COVID concerns. The club argued the change of date due to COVID impacts should have been enough to validate an ‘exceptional circumstance’ as to why Cummings was not signed in time.

The Mariners’ head coach, however, did not want to dwell on the decision and continued to look forward.

“I think it’s bad for football in general. You talk about exceptional circumstances, we’re in a world-wide pandemic and I didn’t think it would be an issue. I thought he would be part of the squad but it’s not affected us in the slightest,” Montgomery said.

“We’re used to it at the Mariners, up against it, decisions aren’t going our way, but we’re not going to winge and moan about it.”

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The side’s defence in the Cup journey has been incredible, compared to the side’s recent A-League Men’s fixtures.

While Cummings is ineligible to play, Socceroo defender Kye Rowles will be back for Saturday’s final against Victory after spending the last couple of weeks in Asia on national duties.

Rowles’ return will only bring more experience to the young side, which has been an element lacking in the past few matches.

Captain Oliver Bozanic is excited for the defender’s return, knowing it will lift some leadership pressure off his shoulders.

“It’s massive to have Rowles back in the team. He’s been away with the Socceroos and has been great for him in his personal career and journey,” Bozanic said.

“It’s well deserved and will add more strength to our backline coming into the final.”

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No matter the hardships, Central Coast have the chance to create history by winning the Cup without playing a single home game.

The occasion has all the players buzzing, as to win would mean so much to not only the team, but the entire community.

Bozanic was part of the 2013 Championship-winning side, and would reel the glory of captaining the side to their first finals victory in almost a decade.

“It would be massive,” the captain said.

“The club has had a tough few years prior to last season and this would be one of the greatest moments in Mariners’ history.”

Feature Image Credit: Robbie Szafranek

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Mitchell Roese
Sports enthuse currently studying a Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) at the University of Technology Sydney. Covering the Central Coast Mariners 2021/22 A-League Season

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