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A-League 2020-21 season preview: Can the Mariners break the finals drought?

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7th December, 2020
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It was another wooden spoon for the Mariners in 2019-20 but was one which did see promise, improvement and desire under Alen Stajcic.

The Mariners still have many more players to sign, but Stajcic will be looking to improve the side and hopefully lead them to their first finals appearance since 2014.

Goalkeepers
Mariners have star goalkeeper Mark Birighitti between the sticks again after a fantastic 2019-20 season, taking out the Mariners medal.

A fantastic goalkeeper, after a season of sitting on the bench with a Melbourne City, Birighitti joined the Mariners in hope of rejuvenating his career which he did, being back to his best when he was the Newcastle’s Jets number 1.

He will be looking to continue his good form and will be vital for the Mariners to have any chance of making finals. The Mariners also have Adam Pearce, who has largely played as backup for the past five years.

Pearce has extra motivation to be phone number one after being selected in the Olyroos squad in November and if he gets his chance he might be a surprise inclusion for the Olympics if he performs.

Alen Stajcic

(Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Defence
The Mariners have reliable centre and full back Ziggy Gordon returning to the club. The Scotsman had a solid debut season with the Mariners and was one of their better players throughout last season, showing heart and determination in every challenge he went into.

On the left side of defence the Mariners have Jack Clisby, another reliable player and one of their more experienced players.

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Entering his eighth season, since joining the Mariners, Clisby has stepped up and been on of their leaders, and has continued to improve on his attacking side of his game.

Young centre back Kyle Robles remains at the club. He has been a mainstay in the centre back role for the past few years at the club, and had a much more disciplined season.

Will need to continue his improvement for the Mariners to improve their conceding record which has been over 50 for the past few seasons.

Ruin Tongyik joined the club last season and made nine appearances. He will be looking to become a mainstay in the heart of defence after only making a handful of appearances at other A-League clubs.

While Lewis Miller broke into the starting eleven last year making 20 appearances and was a good player to watch for the Mariners, showing continued improvement which was rewarded by being moved from a scholarship contract to a senior contract.

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Mariners have also promoted from their academy Matt Hatch and Dan Hall. Both highly regarded in the Mariners academy, with Hatch being a exciting full back and Hall being the academy’s Capetian last season, both had fine seasons in the NPL for the Academy side and have been rewarded with spots in the senior side.

The Mariners defence will need to continue to improve and aim to not concede 50 goals again. Will be interesting to see whether Stajic plays a four man defence or five, as he did both throughout last season, and as to whether he plays natural defenders in defence, unlike last year where he at times used the highly talented likes of Tommy Oar and Kim Eun Sun in defence.

Still and young defensive core and will be good to see their improvement in this campaign.

Midfield
Oliver Bozanic rejoins the club after a stint in Scotland with Heart of Midlothian. Bozanic is a class player and is a big pick up for the Mariners in their quest to end their finals drought.

Bozanic will likely next deployed as a deeper midfielder behind exciting attacking midfielder Danny De Silva. The 23 year old attacking midfielder will be looking to have a breakout campaign and get back to Europe where once AS Roma we’re looking to pick him up if it had not been for a transfer fee mishandled.

De Silva is a creative player and will be looking to add more goals to his game. Will need to score eight or more in order for the Mariners to have any chance of making finals.

Gianni Stensness will be looking to continue his solid 19-20 season form where he won the Mariners Newcomer of the year award. A good midfielder and ball user, and will also be one of the key players for the Mariners. Small youngster Josh Nisbet will also provide competition for Midfield places, with the hardworking midfielder wanting to continue his development in senior football.

While Daniel Bowman has joined the Mariners after stints with several Dutch youth sides. Bouman has an attacking side to him, scoring 14 goals and setting up five more for Groningen’s under 21 side, and will be looking to add that to the Mariners midfield.

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Central Coast Mariners A-League fans

Mariners fans. (Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)

Forwards
The Mariners have legend, the Wizard of Woy Woy, the great Matt Simon remaining at the club for one season, which may likely be his last.

Still capable of scoring goals, what would be a better send off season then leading the Mariners to breaking their finals drought.

Alou Kuol will be one to look out for this season, with an impeccable scoring record at NPL level. He made his A-League debut in the latter half of the season and was an excitement for fans and was well remembered for his interview with Fox Sports.

He will be hoping for a breakout season. The Mariners also have Dylan Ruiz-Diaz, who had a breakout game against the Victory scoring two winning goals.

An exciting attacker and one with big ambitions already statin in an interview with A-League Wrap Up that he hopes Arnie is watching, hoping he ambitiously makes the Olyroos and future national sides.

Whether true or untrue, it has been rumoured that he has left the club and is looking for other suitors to pick him up, and was not included on the most recent squad lists for arrivals on the A-Leagues website (however was not included either on their departed players).

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For Mariners fans sakes I hope this exciting youngster remains at the club.

Verdict
The Mariners squad is still relatively not complete just yet and will still be looking to sign a few more players. They have several players who have been playing in pre season games on trial from both the NPL and from the Mariners Academy.

As much as I would love to see this club make finals especially for their fans, at this stage, I don’t quite think this squad will be capable of doing this, especially with a reliance on so many young players and academy promoted players.

There is a question so far of where the goals will come from especially with Simon near the backend of his career.

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Mariners will need to aim for at least just below the top 6, to show their fans and the league that they are finally improving. Whilst only pre season they have showed some promising results so far with wins over A-League opposition Newcastle Jets and Western Sydney Wanderers.

Will be hoping to not be in the bottom four so they don’t have to go through FFA Cup play off rounds.