Real Steele: one of the rookies behind the Mariners’ FFA Cup success

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Entering this season, game time for 19-year-old midfielder Harrison Steele seemed way off par.

The Central Coast Mariners youngster did not even envision it himself.

“In pre season I didn’t really think anything of it. I was just there training and trying my hardest,” Steele said.

Now after securing four starts and 358 minutes of professional football for Central Coast, Steele has the chance to lead Mariners to their first trophy in more than eight years on Saturday night when they venture to AAMI Park to take on Melbourne Victory in the FFA Cup Grand Final.

Signed on a two-year contract, the midfielder has been around the first-team during and since completing his High School Certificate in 2020. A year on, and an 84th minute appearance in a round one F3 derby kickstarted his rise to stardom.

Shocked by the call-up, Steele said he had not taken a step back since.

“I thought unless there’s an injury I won’t be getting on.

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Then finally I was told it’s my time and it was amazing,” he said.

“Ever since then I’ve trained and played well. Monty and Sergio have seen that and given me a fair share of minutes.”

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Steele is one of 15 academy graduates to make the leap into first-grade this season.

He was one of the first to be granted the opportunity this season to show the midfielder’s potential, and his strength and speed causing the opposition grief has proved why.

It also acknowledges the faith coach Nick Montgomery has in his academy prodigies. Pairing in the NSW National Premier League 2 Competition with a premiership and championship under their belt, it has made the transition into the top grade much smoother.

“He’s (Montgomery) been a huge inspiration for me. He’s played hundreds of games over in England and played the same position as me,” Steele said.

“Monty knows a lot about the style I play and how much I put into my work and knows what I can do for the team.”

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Entering into the league as a rookie is never easy. Rookies can feel isolated and the burden of high expectation, which can ultimately lead them underperforming.

Steele has joined a side with a wealth of experience, especially in skipper Oliver Bozanic.

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Bozanic has more than 100 games of A-League Men’s experience and has lifted such pressure from Steele.

“It’s been unreal. He’s (Bozanic) a coastie and has been real supportive of me and him coming back from a big club like Hearts has brought experience,” Steele said.

“He gives good tactics on and off the field and is a great leader, and I think it’s made me a better player.”

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Victory in both competitions have been the in-form side and a home final will certainly give the Melbourne side an edge.

The Central Coast, however, have played all their FFA Cup fixtures away and could potentially be the first team to win the Cup whilst playing all matches away from home.

Steele’s efforts will be on display on Saturday night in the final to potentially add another accolade to his resume while still a teenager.

“It’s nearly written in the stars.

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First professional year and the chance to win a bit of silverware for the club for the first time in nearly a decade will be amazing,” he said.

“It’s what dreams are made of and I’m really looking forward to it.

“We’re always the underdogs and we’ve got the biggest hearts in the competition. I reckon we can go down there and show the Central Coast what we’re made of and show Australia we can do it and beat these top teams with the massive budgets.”

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The depth of the Mariners’ academy is incredible with players like Steele leading and transforming the future of the perception of young home-grown talent.

With an average squad age of 24.2, there’s no surprise youthfulness is pivotal to Central Coast’s success which will be on full display come Saturday’s final.

Feature Image Credit: Robbie Szafranek

Data sourced from our friends at Ultimate A-League

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Mitchell Roese
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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