End of 2021/22 season report card: Central Coast Mariners

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Believe it or not, the 2021/22 regular season is done and dusted. Here at The Football Sack we like to investigate each and every squad’s performance throughout the season so let us take a look at how Central Coast Mariners faired this season.

Season Summary:

Written off from the beginning, many expected Central Coast not to continue their surprise season of last. With a new coaching staff and young players at the fore, it seemed to be more of a development season.

Making the FFA Cup final and finishing fifth in the regular season showed just how determined they were to show the league that no matter the squad size and budget, they would push through.

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A total of 49 goals scored through the season secured their largest tally since their championship-winning season in 2013. They recorded the second highest among the league, highlighting the diverse star-studded strike force where goals came from.

Mariners did go through a period in the middle of the season where they conceded late goals which definitely impacted the ladder position. More importantly, it would cost them a home elimination final. Nevertheless, Nick Montgomery’s men finished the season strong, winning their last five games heading into finals.

Areas of Excellence: Sourcing talent

Starting with the academy – where Montgomery previously governed – had 12 players playing in the A-League Men side, many for much of the season. Mariners’ on-field average age was 24.7 years compared to 25.5 years in 2020/21. For their starting XI’s, Mariners averaged 25.3 years compared to 26.7 years the season before – third among all clubs.

With the likes of Harrison Steele, Jacob Farrell, Garang Kuol, and many more who are only still in their teenage years, it will be exciting to see the direction the club is headed once they gather more experience.

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Then it’s the international signings, who have really made a huge impact on not only the club but the coast community, particularly in Beni Nkololo and Jason Cummings.

Coming from international clubs not as prolific as other league signings, their talent did the talking, combining for 17 goals between the pair – 10 for Cummings and seven for Nkololo. Their ability to slot into a squad emphasising youth talent showed the value to Montgomery, which he reflected on the mixture between the youth, foreign and older boys being perfect.

Areas of Improvement: Consistency

Montgomery’s side will definitely be thinking about what could have been had they not conceded a few late goals this season. In five games, Macarthur FC, Perth Glory, Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United all stole points in the 90th minute or beyond. Melbourne City scored in the 74th minute to win 3-2, though a controversial 90th minute no call from VAR denied a chance for Mariners to level.

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From a possible 15 points, Central Coast only collected two. Taking away a few more points would have solidified their spot not only in the top four, but even making a claim for top spot. Mariners also won 5-0 against Wellington in New Zealand, before being beaten 5-0 by Sydney FC at home.

Mariners still finished strong, but would be itching to have those games over.

Top Student: Jason Cummings

The Scottish-born striker has etched his name in Mariners folklore already it seems since joining the club in January. A stunning 10 goals and five assists in 20 appearances has seen Cummings become a monumental asset to the club.

His Australian citizenship enables Cummings to be selected for the Socceroos, with fans questioning why he hasn’t already been picked. The experience he has brought to the young side has aided in their development and cohesion on the pitch.

Especially with Alou Kuol leaving overseas and Matt Simon sidelined with injury, the 26-year-old has easily filled the void in flying colours. Montgomery mentioned there is no player in Australia like him, and Cummings has not failed to live up to such hype.

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Cummings’ ability to drop deep, manipulate space, bring people into play and draw fouls is exactly what coaches want from their men up front.

Only 26, Cummings still has a lot of football left in him. If the Mariners can do as fans want – ‘Cap the Cum Dog’ that is – then it seems they have found their leader up front.

Class Clown: Oliver Bozanic

The local hero returned to the club last season after stints overseas and at rival league clubs and was handed the armband this year to steer the ship. However, half way through the season he was dropped from the squad and hasn’t played since.

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Whatever the reason may be for both being dropped and unavailable for selection – Montgomery has listed a few – it hasn’t been disastrous for the squad regarding their recent run in form.

Bozanic has been active behind the scenes – working alongside the coaching staff and the team – it’s still a shame when your captain gets dropped for almost half the season due to form.

Montgomery explained to the media that no one gets special treatment, which shows his integrity to win at all costs, even at the demise of his captain.

Grade: B

Outlook:

Despite being knocked out in the elimination final for the second consecutive year, the squad did wonders to make it to the finals in the first place.

Nick Montgomery in his first season as head coach has stunned all the naysayers and led one of the youngest squads in the league to the first FFA Cup final in team history and followed on from the job Alen Stajcic did last season.

Attention will be turned to cult hero Matt Simon to see if he will go another season with the yellow and navy following reports he may retire. If he continues to play on it will be great for the fans, but it’s unclear where he will fit in the squad.

With Richard Peil being appointed as the new director of the club, it will be interesting to see what he will implement at the club, aiming to make the team a powerhouse in the next five years.

By the youngsters having already so much A-League Men experience, their transition into next season will be ever smoother, and it’s crazy to think how much better they may be come the backend of 2022.

Feature Image Credit: Central Coast Mariners

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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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