The Gosford-based Mariners struggled after a bright start and eventually dropped to third last on the table after a season that relied on too few and attracted mediocre crowds.
Record: Wins – 7; Draws – 9; Losses – 11; Points – 30
Top goalscorer: Matt Simon (7)
What went wrong? At the beginning of the season almost nothing erred for the Mariners but as the campaign went on, their form faltered. They suffered just three losses up until Round 11 and then were unbeaten throughout November before losing five times in a row which really took the wind out of their sails. That run, which went from Round 17 to Round 21 effectively ended their finals hopes, after being placed third at the end of Round 16.
What went right? Against the odds, the Mariners were the form team of the competition in the opening few months and coach Lawrie McKinna managed to get a lot out of a squad that was not possessed with an abundance of talent. They did, however, tell the tale of a season interrupted with injuries and a lack of natural goalscorers by falling badly as the season advanced.
tribalfootball.com’s Player of the Year: Danny Vukovic. As with Adelaide and Galekovic, the only saving grace in a lacklustre season.
He was in the final three for the A-League Goalkeeper of the Year Award (losing out to Galekovic) and was constantly on hand to save a Mariners side devoid of quality.
Crowds: Home average – 7405. Biggest – 11,137 (Rd 21 v WP). Lowest – 5139 (Rd 5 v PG) The Mariners lacked any real stars or quality players to attract decent crowds and will need to lure a marquee-type player to Gosford to lift the attendance average.
The coach: Lawrie McKinna did what he could with a mediocre squad but it showed out in the end and the 8th-placed finish was about what was expected. McKinna’s shift to another role at the club indicates that things needed tinkering.
Surprises: The big one is the six-month loan that the Mariners allowed Nik Mrdja to sign with Melbourne Victory. Very peculiar as the club got nothing for it and the fact that Mrdja is likely to return to the club after his stint down south.
Disappointments: The constant injuries to key striker Matt Simon did not help and the departure of Dean Heffernan, first to Huddersfield Town before he signs permanently with Melbourne Heart, will hurt.
Where to from here? The club needs to sign some real quality although they found some gems in New Zealand international Michael McGlinchey and English midfielder Nicky Travis. A decent striker to help Simon and defensive cover for Heffernan would be nice.
The instalment of former Socceroos assistant Graham Arnold as new head coach is a positive move but the club needs to do something in the off-season in regards to player signings to be able to compete with 10 other clubs and with the impending arrival of a second Sydney team, things are going to have improve drastically.