With the Mariners season well and truly in post mortem, over the coming days we will dissect the Central Coast's ninth campaign in Australia's top flight after a tumultuous and often transitional 29 weeks. Today, we look at the best players to have worn the yellow and navy kit for the Mariners this season.
5. Bernie Ibini
After returning to the Central Coast in January on loan from Chinese side Shanghai East Asia under devastating circumstances, Ibini found the net six times in 16 appearances for the Gosford club whilst his explosive pace coupled with newfound technique on the ball troubled opposition defences across the league.
He was instrumental in getting the Mariners season back on track after a poor run of results in February, and will surely be a priority for Phil Moss during the off season as he attempts to lure Bernie back to the Coast on a more permanent basis. If Ibini had of spent the full campaign with the Mariners, he would have been close to the top of this list.
4. Nick Fitzgerald
Where young Fitzy came in on this list was the most difficult decision of the lot, after a break through season for the former Brisbane Roar player. The fact that he places at number four shows only how impressive those above him were throughout the season, and on another list he could very easily have topped it.
After Graham Arnold brought Fitzgerald back to the Coast midway through their title winning campaign last year, he struggled for regular first team football under the ex-Socceroo coach and often found himself warming the Bunnings chairs. Phil Moss, however, showed serious commitment to the 22-year old and he flourished under Moss' tutelage. A combination of speed and vision down the left touchline saw Fitzy score three times for the Mariners throughout the year, and he is one to watch as we head into the tenth anniversary of the inception of the Hyundai A-League.
3. Liam Reddy
After Rocket's contract with Sydney FC was terminated in April of 2012 for serious misconduct on a plane flight, the A-League custodian of no less than four clubs by that stage seemed headed for an early retirment with his professional career all but in tatters.
Yet how like the Mariners to offer a second chance.
Reddy signed on with the Mariners as back up for long time number two Justin Pasfield in the off season of 2013, though only five rounds into the season he was given his chance between the sticks and he never looked back. Liam was in stellar form for the reigning champions, often winning or saving games for the Coast off his own gloves with a string of high class saves worthy of any highlight reel. Whilst he performed admirably on the domestic scene, keeping eight clean sheets across the campaign, it was his Asian Champions League form that shone like a watchface in the sun. Reddy will be a big part of the Mariners upcoming season as they look to dethrone the newly crowned Brisbane Roar from the A-League title.
2. Nick Montgomery
The stalwart Englishman continues to fly under the radar in the holding midfield role for the Mariners, yet the man of no less than 400 appearances for the Blades of Sheffield United had an extremely impressive second campiagn for the yellow and navy.
The clubs vice captain elect played 21 league games in some form for the Central Coast in season 2013/14 where his extreme workrate and passion for the game proved a huge influence in marshalling and controlling a Mariners defence torn apart during the annual clearance sale in their post Grand Final hysteria. Monty continues to win over fans with his exemplary attitude towards the club and his teammates and is a big chance of being awarded the Mariners Medal for 2014.
1. Storm Roux
Has there been a better debut season in the A-League than that of All White international Storm Roux? Sure, you will immediately think of Thomas Broich, Alessandro Del Piero, Shinji Ono and more, but I am talking about a young player finding their feet on the professional footballing landscape.
Stepping into the boots of fan favourite Pedj Bojic at right full back, Roux stormed (pun intended) onto the domestic scene in a blaze of yellow and navy, winding opposing attacking assets up like a 50 cent watch whilst exploiting his pace down the sideline with Josh Rose in a tried and tested Mariners tactic where the fullback's can support in offence.
In the same year that Roux made his full domestic debut at a professional level, and scored his first A-League goal at the iconic North Sydney Oval, he made his first international debut for New Zealand in a World Cup qualifier, and appears entrenched in the Kiwi set up for years to come at the ripe age of 21.
It's exciting just thinking about what this young kid can do in years to come, and I am just as excited that the Mariners, for now, will be a part of the ride.
Honourable Mentions: Eddy Bosnar, Anthony Caceras
HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you agree with the Mariners Top 5 Players from above? Who do you think deserved the top gong for Season 2013/14?
Be sure to read tomorrow as we look at the Mariners Top 5 Wins of A-League Season 9.