The Central Coast Mariners have had their first win of Grand Final week, with teenage goalkeeper Mathew Ryan taking out the NAB Young Footballer of the Year honour at the Hyundai A-League Awards held in Sydney on Saturday night.
Since being thrust into the Mariners starting side back in round four following a season ending injury to Jess Vanstrattan, Ryan has shown a maturity and confidence well beyond his 18 years to produce 13 clean sheets in 29 matches in 2010/11, stamping himself as one of the country's premier 'keepers.
"Arnie presented me with the opportunity at the beginning of the year due to the unfortunate luck with Jess, and I'd like to think I haven't taken a backward step. There have been a couple of little hiccups along the way but credit to myself and the coaching staff I have been able to move on to bigger and better things, and my reaction afterwards has been pretty sound," said Ryan.
A Blacktown City junior, Ryan came through the Westfield Sports High system, and was a member of the Mariners Premiership winning National Youth League team in 2009/10 before being added to the Hyundai A-League squad this season, where he completed his stellar rise with a nomination for the NAB Young Footballer of the Year in December before picking up the ultimate prize at last night's glitzy event.
"I didn't expect to be playing at all this year, I wake up every morning and keep pinching myself, so to be standing here tonight, it's a dream come true," Ryan said.
Ryan was instrumental in helping the Mariners qualify for this Sunday's showpiece against Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium, after pulling off a stunning double save to deny Joel Porter and Adama Traore late in the 1-nil Preliminary Final win over Gold Coast at Bluetongue Stadium on Saturday night.
But the unassuming teenager was typically humble when asked about his heroics.
"Not really, I get taught to dive and then get up as quickly as you can, fortunately I was in the right place at the right time and helped our team qualify for the Grand Final on Sunday," said Ryan.
"After last night qualifying for the Grand Final I don't know what to expect this week, all the hype around it, but in the end it's just another game and hopefully we'll be going up there to knock Brisbane off their high horse."