Central Coast Mariners - History Made Special edition

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Unprecedented scenes on the Central Coast as mighty Mariners win back-to-back A-League Grand Finals and secure historic football treble. See inside.

Images of victory: top - Mariners celebrate the win, coach Mark Jackson and bottom right fans celebrate.

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Joyous scenes as Mariners go back-to-back with title treble


NBRIDLED scenes of joy erupted along the Central Coast on Saturday night after the mighty Mariners came from the jaws of Grand Final defeat to win back-to-back A-League Championships and secure a historic treble never before seen in Australian football.

In front of an all-time record attendance of 21,379 fans at Gosford’s Industree Group Stadium – and with thousands more cheering on at a community Live Site next door – the Mariners overcame a 0-1 deficit in the Isuzu Ute A-League Grand Final to equalise in the 91st minute before dominating extra time to run out 3-1 winners over a brave Melbourne Victory team.

Having won last year’s Grand Final, the Mariners became the first club in A-League history to win all three major titles in the same season – being crowned A-League Premiers, Asian Football Confederation (AFC Cup) Champions and A-League Champions in an unprecedented run of title success. They added a fourth title for good measure, with the Mariners also winning the A-League Club Championship this season after both their men’s and women’s elite teams excelled.

At halftime in the Grand Final, the Mariners’ Josh Nisbett was announced as the Johnny Warren Medallist as the A-League men’s Player of the Year,

while Mariners’ coach Mark Jackson was named Coach of the Year.

As Queen’s We Are The Champions blazed out around Industree Group Stadium post-game, scenes of celebration were unfolding throughout the City of Gosford and the network of coastal towns and villages that make up the Central Coast . . . now home to a history-making football club.

Upwards of 10,000 fans passed through the community Live Site at Leagues Club Park directly across from the Stadium. Hosted by Central Coast Council and supported by Destination NSW, the fans who couldn’t get

a ticket to the game rode every minute of the drama-filled Grand Final that went 30 minutes into extra time.

Member for Gosford Liesl Tesch and Member for Wyong David Harris – the latter also the NSW Minister for the Central Coast – described the Grand Final as “the biggest sporting event ever seen on the Coast”.

Thousands of fans made their way to region for the big game, driving visitation and providing a boon for local businesses right along the Coast. More than 4000 fans arrived in support of visiting team Melbourne Victory alone and helped create a phenomenal

football atmosphere in and around Industree Group Stadium.

The Gosford Erina Business Chamber reported that accommodation was close to 100 per cent capacity on the Coast.

Bars, clubs and restaurants reported heavy bookings Saturday night.

Fans were spilling out of Central Coast Leagues Club from lunchtime Saturday and joyous scenes continued until the early hours of Sunday.

Hotels, clubs and restaurants were packed not only in Gosford but at Wyong, Terrigal, The Entrance, Ettalong Beach, Budgewoi and Bateau Bay.

The success of the event was a triumph for the A-Leagues who made the bold decision to take the Grand Final back to the fans and scheduled this year’s decider on the Central Coast for the first time.

It was a grand occasion that the 350,000-plus residents on the Central Coast will never forget and it has left a football legacy for generations to come.

The fans were out in their thousands again Sunday as the Mariners said Thank You to their loyal supporters and their community, with a major celebration at Erina Fair from 12noon.

As the Mariners fought for victory Saturday night, the home active supporters known as the Yellow Army held up a giant tifo that said simply, Gossy Good Times.

The Gossy Good Times show no signs of abating any time soon!


GRAND FINAL THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN Huge events calendar at stadium


THE A-League Grand Final

was the biggest sporting event in history on the NSW Central Coast – and the region’s 350,000-plus residents can expect many more highlights at Industree Group Stadium, the Home of Sport, Entertainment and Community Events on the Coast.

Stadium Manager Kath Casey says the experienced VenuesLive management team that took over operations of the stadium in 2022 is bringing more and more content to the local stadium, which ultimately drives visitation to the Central Coast, injecting millions into the economy and creating local jobs.

“When we bring quality events to the Central Coast, everyone in our community benefits,” said Ms Casey.

“Visitation numbers increase, hotel beds are filled, and money is spent in the local community, bringing prosperity to the region and creating jobs.

“The Central Coast is always busy during the summer and school holidays so to see major events like the A-League Semi-Final and Grand Final filling the Stadium and bringing so many visitors to the Coast in May is great for the region.”

More blockbusters are ahead, with NRL games featuring Sydney Roosters v Canterbury Bulldogs (Saturday 22 June) and South Sydney Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers (Saturday 20 July) both expected to be sellout events.

Following on from the NRL, there’s back-to-back NRLW games featuring Roosters v Tigers on Saturday 10 August and Roosters v Cowboys on Sunday 15 September.

A diverse range of entertainment and sporting events are planned beyond the footy season.

Head of Commercial at VenuesLive, Michael McLeod, said the Mariners’ extraordinary success over the past two seasons had been a perfect launching pad for a new era of events on the Central Coast’s famous Stadium, sitting pretty on the foreshore of the majestic Brisbane Water.

“We have plans in motion for more exciting and diverse events in the coming years,” Mr McLeod said.

“Working closely with stadium owner Central Coast Council, we are absolutely committed to making Industree Group Stadium accessible to everyone in our community, hosting a diverse range of events. We also focus on supporting grass-roots sport as

well as elite men’s and women’s sport.”

Mr McLeod said VenuesLive’s strategic direction for the Stadium when it comes to business is to “keep it local” at every opportunity – ensuring that the success of the Stadium business equates with success for other local Central Coast businesses and more opportunities for residents.

“Our Stadium event partners include the award-winning Six String Brewing Company and Eastcoast Beverages, both thriving Central Coast companies that came on board this year,” he said.

“The opportunity exists for more companies to tap into the success of the Stadium and connect with tens of thousands of fans who come to events here.”

Mr McLeod added that Industree Group Stadium has many partnership and advertising opportunities available, as well as offering valuable Corporate Hospitality seats and Stadium Memberships.

“We want to help local businesses and major companies elevate their business appeal on the Central Coast via Industree Group Stadium,” he said.

“Corporate Hospitality at our major events is the perfect way to do business or celebrate with staff in a relaxed and uplifting environment.

“From a fan perspective, Stadium Membership is the perfect way to lock in seats

for EVERY major event at the Stadium.

“Our Stadium Members did not have to worry about how they would get tickets to the sold-out A-League blockbusters or the upcoming NRL games – or in fact any game at Industree Group Stadium,” he said.

Naming rights partner

Industree Group Pty Ltd - the Berkeley Vale owned-and-operated innovator, designer and manufacturer of premium Personal Protective Equipment has had its name in lights at the Stadium since November 2022.

Australia’s most popular

sporting team the Matildas have played two recent games at the Stadium and the England Lionesses used the venue as their World Cup training base during the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Earlier this year, the month of February alone featured both Isuzu Ute A-League Men’s games and Liberty A-League women’s games, five NRL pre-season fixtures and an amazing Freestyle Kings motocross event live at the Stadium.

But capacity attendances for both the Mariners’ second-leg Semi-Final against Sydney FC and then Saturday night’s blockbuster A-League Grand Final Mariners v Melbourne Victory have been the standout events.

Industree Group Stadium itself is a great local business success story, and it is teaming up with other local businesses for the greater good of the Central Coast community.

INDUSTREE GROUP STADIUM at Grahame Park, Gosford

ƒ Nickname – “Our Paradise”.

ƒ Opened in early 2000.

ƒ Hosts upwards of 40 events each year.

ƒ Operated by VenuesLive, on behalf of Central Coast Council and the local community.

ƒ Employs locals to provide services to the stadium for delivery of services including event days.

ƒ Want a premium experience at the next big sport or entertainment event? Register your corporate hospitality interest at hospitality@industreegroupstadium.com.au

ƒ Or why not lock in ALL events ALL year round on the Coast with a Stadium Membership: Visit industreegroupstadium.com.au/membership. Upcoming events at www.industreegroupstadium.com.au

Kath Casey at Industree Group Stadium.
Grand Final pictures: AYUSH KUMAR.

On behalf of Business NSW Central Coast, we extend our heartfelt congratulations to the Central Coast Mariners for an outstanding season!

Building the WINNING culture at the Mariners

Club owner Richard Peil lifts

the lid on the business strategies that have turned the Central Coast into a sporting juggernaut.


THE owner of the Central Coast Mariners – and the man who has helped transform the club into the biggest success story in Australian sport – is standing on the sideline at Gosford’s Industree Group Stadium, casting an eye over the squad in the countdown to their A-League Grand Final against Melbourne Victory.

“There are at least six players in this Mariners training session under 20 years of age. At times this season we’ve had up to eight club academy graduates in our top squad,” says Richard Peil, giving a rare insight into the business model that has brought unprecedented title success to the Central Coast.

“We have the youngest group in the League and the biggest Youth Academy in Australia. Our focus on youth development is fundamental to what we do at the Mariners.”

Peil, a businessman with expertise in athletic development and sports science, took over the Mariners 2 ½ years ago, at a time when their very existence was in jeopardy.

The founder of the multi-million-dollar gym franchise, Anytime Fitness, Peil first learned about the Mariners' dire situation after his son won a place at the club's Youth Academy.

He got to know some of the club's key figures, including former coach Nick Montgomery and CEO Shaun Mielekamp. The more he listened and learned, the more he realised the potential of the ailing club.

“The Mariners have something that makes them unique: they are the only A-League team representing a regional area and with no other professional sporting teams from other codes to compete against,” he says.

“The Mariners have captured the heart of a community with 350,000 residents.”

Buoyed by this local support, Peil stepped in as owner with a very firm view as to the business model needed to make a football club sustainable and viable in Australia.

“Our model is to develop and promote youth and we go looking for very specific visa players (elite senior players) to complement our rising stars,” he explains.

“We look for players who have shown promise

elsewhere but for whatever reason have not fulfilled their potential. We also consider the character of the players we are interested in and, if we feel they can fit into our culture, we offer them an opportunity here.

“If they are successful, these players become valuable on the transfer market . . . and we need to be able to sell players to make our club more financially viable.

“I’m not going to be critical of the business models of other clubs in the A-League, but what we won’t do on the Central Coast is pay huge money for elite players. Our experience has shown us that players getting big money elsewhere are not necessarily any more effective than our visa players coming here looking for an opportunity to excel.”

Peil points to Brazilian star Mikael Doka as the perfect example of a player whose value has soared as a result of being part of a successful Mariners team.

“There are a lot of things I don’t know, but after 37 years in business I do know a thing or two about building a successful business culture . . .

and all I have tried to do here is bring these same successful cultural business strategies to the Mariners,” says Peil. Clearly it is working, as evidenced by the phenomenal run of success at the club since Richard Peil took over.

The Mariners have created history by winning back-toback A-League Grand Finals and securing a football title never before seen in Australian football.

In a 2023/24 season of perfection under coach Mark Jackson, the Mariners have been crowned A-League Premiers, Asian Confederation Cup Champions and A-League Champions.

For good measure, the Mariners also won the A-League Club Championship after both their men’s and women’s elite teams excelled.

A Grand Final win on Saturday night at the club’s spiritual home Industree Group Stadium in Gosford was the stuff of dreams for the club’s legion of fans.

An all-time record attendance of 21,379 packed every nook and cranny at Industree Group Stadium to witness the home Grand Final and

thousands more watched on at a Central Coast Council-hosted Live Site across the road in Leagues Club Park.

There were unprecedented scenes of joy in Gosford and right along the Coast after the Mariners came from 0-1 down in injury time to win the Grand Final against Victory 3-1 after 30 minutes of extra time.

Even owner Peil admits he is surprised at what the Mariners have managed to achieve in such a short space of time. “It has just been the most extraordinary effort all round.”

Peil is lavish in his praise of the coaches who have led the Mariners to historic title success. “Monty (previous coach Nick Montgomery) did an incredible job and we hit the jackpot with Mark Jackson, who has really amplified the winning culture here. We also have great people assisting the coach, in our athletic department and in our back office. It has been very much a team effort.”

In 2019, when the Central Coast Mariners were handed their third consecutive wooden spoon for finishing last in the A-League, it felt like the

death-knell for the club.

Now they are flying high – a glowing example of how good business and cultural strategies can change the course of a sporting club.

“And we are not about to stop here,” adds Peil. “We will amplify what we are doing next season and beyond.

“Our women’s team made the semi-finals in our first season back in the Liberty A-League competition – and we want to help Emily Husband become the first female coach to win a premier football competition in Australia.”

Looking out beyond the famous palm trees at the southern end of Industree Group Stadium, Richard Peil gives a final summation of his plans for the future:

“The Central Coast is a very special part of the world . . . the local people here love their region and look out for one another. We want to make sure we give them a football club they can always be proud of.”

Arthur Stanley is a senior journalist working across multiple media platforms in news and corporate communications.

Owner Richard Peil, centre,celebrates the win.


From the brink of extinction to A-Leagues POWERHOUSE


AS football fairytales go, they don’t come much better than the Central Coast Mariners – surely one of the greatest feel-good stories of Australian sport.

Amid truly extraordinary scenes, The Little Club That Could, the club with the smallest budget in the competition, the club many thought would either fold or be relocated to another region just four seasons ago, claimed back-to-back Isuzu UTE A-League titles at Gosford’s Industree Group Stadium on Saturday night.

A brace of goals from Englishman Ryan Edmondson and another from rising star Miguel Dipizo helped the Yellow and Navy to a famous extra time 3-1 win over Melbourne Victory in front of a record crowd of 21,379.

In the process, the Mariners created history, claiming an unprecedented treble by adding the championship to the Premiership trophy they won for finishing top of the table after the regular season and the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Cup.

The final whistle sparked wonderful scenes as thousands of Mariners fans invaded the pitch to celebrate with the players. It took 10 minutes to restore

some decorum so that the presentation could take place. But no-one cared!

That show of emotion and exuberance showed just how much the win meant to the region and its people.

The Mariners now stand among the greatest clubs in the history of the A-League.

As has been the case over the years, few pundits believed the Central Coast would figure as serious title contenders this season after the club was decimated before a ball had been kicked in anger.

The losses of championship winning coach Nick Montgomery and a raft of quality players including ace goalscorer Jason Cummings, Sam Silvera, Marco Tulio, James McGarry, Moresche, Beni Nkololo and Nectarios Triantis tore the heart out of the squad.

A new coach in Mark Jackson and an awful start to the season in which the Mariners lost their opening four games only served to heighten concerns the club was about to fall back to the dark times when defeats and wooden spoons were a painful norm.

But, there is something different, a new found mentality and strength about the club that best defines the spirit and determination of the Central Coast region. We saw it last season when they beat Melbourne City 6-1 to claim the title and we were lucky

enough to witness it again in spades this season.

A resurgence that started with Alen Stajcic three seasons ago and was built on by Montgomery leading the club to the title last season, has now taken even greater strides forward under the coaching of the likeable Englishman Jackson and his hard-working staff.

Make no mistake, winning in Asia was a massive achievement. All up the Mariners travelled in excess of 100,000 kilometres, all in “cattle” class, and had to mix their Asian commitments with their A-League draw which often meant playing two games every three or four days.

It was a task the critics thought would take its toll and see the Mariners fall away in the latter parts of the A-League season.

It didn’t happen and now the club has joined Brisbane Roar (2011, 2012) and Sydney FC (2019, 2020) as the only clubs to win back-to-back titles since the A-League was formed in 2005.

Credit must go to the unheralded Jackson, whose appointment was greeted with about as much enthusiasm as a trip to the dentist for root canal therapy.

But Jackson and his staff, have gone about their job with belief and professionalism, turning around a disastrous start in such remarkable fashion that

he was a shoe-in for the A-League Coach of the Year award.

In turn, he quickly won the trust of the players, including the immensely popular Josh Nisbet, rightly named the Johnny Warren Medallist as the player of the A-League season,, Max Balard, Brian Kaltak, Dan Hall, Jacob Farrell and evergreen captain Danny Vukovic among a united and determined squad.

Nothing epitomised the camaraderie and the fight of this group of players than in the 0-0 second leg semi-final draw against Sydney FC the previous weekend.

Under pressure for the entire game, the Navy and Yellow somehow withstood the constant barrage from the opposition and held on to earn a place in the Grand Final.

And we saw it again against Victory in the season decider.

Down 1-0 with just minutes left, they somehow conjured an equaliser through man-of-the man Edmondson. There was only going to be one winner after that.

The Mariners were relentless in extra time with DiPizio’s goal giving them a 2-1 lead before Edmondson’s clinical finish sealed the deal close to full-time.

10 | HISTORY MADE | SPECIAL MARINERS SUCCESS FEATURE | MAY 2024 www.centralcoastsun.au
Ray Gatt is a former Chief Football Writer for The Australian who now calls the Central Coast home.

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