The foundation of every sporting club is the development of their youth and that was never more evident than in the Mariners six goal demolition of the renowned Apia Leichhardt in an FFA Cup quarter-final last Tuesday night.
On a red letter night for the Central Coast, Nick Montgomery’s young army of marauders, helped by a few old heads, advanced to the semi-finals of the Cup for the second time in as many seasons.
The facts and figures that came out of that game make for astonishing reading:
*All up there were nine players take the field who have come out of the Mariners academy – Jacob Farrell, Dan Hall, Harry Steele, Max Balard, Josh Nisbet, Harry McCarthy, Damian Tsekenis, Matt Hatch and Garang Kuol.
*Farrell, Hall, Steele, Balard, Nisbet and McCarthy were in the starting XI with McCarthy making his senior starting debut.
*Kuol, a younger brother of former Mariners now German-based attacker Alou, came on in the second half for his senior club debut at the tender age of 17.
*At the start of the game the average age of the XI was 22.9 years.
*At the end of the game, allowing for the substitutes, the average age of the XI was just 20.45 years.
*To cap it off, Hall, Balard and Kuol all came up with their first senior goals for the club.
Tuesday night continued a long tradition of the Mariners being prepared to give the great, local youth talent a chance to show what they can do when allowed the opportunity to play senior football.
It was a successful formula in the heady days of Graham Arnold, who led the way with the emergence of the likes of Maty Ryan, Tom Rogic, Oliver Bozanic, Trent Sainsbury and Mitchell Duke.
While there is still a long, long way to go before the present generation can emulate the feats of their predecessors, there is genuine hope the Mariners are again on the right track and leading the way for other clubs to follow.
Given the club does not have the financial and on ground resources of some of the bigger clubs in the League, it is truly remarkable the Mariners continue to do wonderful things with their youth development and academy.
It is certainly a credit to the small band of people at the club who work tirelessly behind the scenes.
And it is a credit to Montgomery that he is prepared to make the bold and tough decisions to throw these kids into the deep end. Monty has seen first hand over the years the hard work that goes into the academy.
He understands and knows what these kids are capable of producing. And his faith is being rewarded in bucket loads.
A lot of water has gone under the bridge since the Golden Generation of Australian football which produced the likes of Mark Viduka, Mark Schwarzer, Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill, Brett Emerton, Mark Bresciano, Jason Culina, Vince Grella, Lucas Neill and on and on.
Many in the game have bemoaned the fact that we are nowhere near producing that sort of stunning talent again.
Perhaps the Golden Generation was a once in a lifetime phenomenon. Who knows?
But with clubs like the Mariners doing their part, maybe, just maybe, we could be on the way to another Golden Generation.