Mariners youngsters shine in F3 Derby

In the fire and fight of the F3 Derby, the Central Coast Mariners picked up maximum points in a gutsy and professional performance in the driving rain at McDonald Jones Stadium. A first win of the season for Nick Montgomery, a man who knows all too well the derby winning feeling having played in many throughout his playing career.

As the dust settles after match day and the fans take a look back at the 90 minutes, one story-line comes to mind. Giving youth a chance.

When the 18-man team sheet was released with the absence from Matt Simon, critics exclaimed, “Matt Simon is a big loss.”

However, Nick Montgomery simply adopted the Clubs policy and stated “Matty is a big loss to the team, however what it does do is provide another youngster with an opportunity.”

On Sunday, half of the selected 18 came through the ranks of the Central Coast Mariners Academy, not to mention Montgomery as a coach.

The Gosford based side have the smallest catchment of any of the Isuzu UTE A-League clubs and have always been given the underdog status from their inception in 2005. A club that prides themselves on producing quality talent through the years with the likes of Matty Ryan, Mustafa Amini, Tom Rogic and Mitchell Duke calling the Coast home in the past.

Those names have gone on to have very successful careers but the derby success of 2021’s back to back wins at McDonald Jones for the first time in Mariners history, will be remembered for the current crop of Academy graduates.

Josh Nisbet is not your typical footballer. He possesses a strong desire for success and combined with his high work ethic, it makes him a fan favourite. He made his Mariners debut in an F3 Derby at McDonald Jones stadium in January 2019. An unassuming debut that began a love story with Nisbet and the Mariners faithful who have supported him with anticipation of him scoring his first goal.

Josh Nisbet in the FFA Cup in 2018

A moment that has eluded young Josh until a wet Sunday afternoon in Newcastle. Slipped in behind by Costa Rican Marco Ureña, Nisbet poked the ball home and the celebrations erupted from everyone involved. Those close to the club know the angst and frustration at times that Nisbet has had in front of goal, and 42 games later he finally broke that duck. An opportunity which many have preceded, but an opportunity that will create lasting memories as the entire eleven swarmed the number four. An opportunity to show his ability in front of goal, an opportunity taken.

An unassuming boy from Wyoming on the Central Coast, would have the final say on derby day. 19-year-old Jacob Farrell, making just his first A-League experience, getting a goal on debut. The stuff dreams are made of, the moment that will last a lifetime. An opportunity taken.

If you’d told Jacob Farrell about the meteoric rise of his career just a few months ago, he would’ve given you one of his unassuming puzzled looks. At beginning of pre-season, you’d be forgiven to have not known who he was. A quiet character off the field, who does his talking on it. Jacob is another Academy graduate that has been developed the Mariners way for the past seven years.

We shouldn’t be surprised though as it is now well established that the Mariners breeding centre is continuing to produce quality players.

The team celebrating with Josh Nisbet

For many, they have witnessed an unknown Coast local enter the heat of the F3 Derby and after the 90 minutes, walk away being the name on everyone’s lips. Jacob Farrell was given an opportunity in a match that means so much to so many. Thousands of Coasties turned out to see this contest in poor conditions and Farrell did not disappoint. 54 touches, 100% tackle success rate, six interceptions. A man of the match performance.

Another local 19-year-old Harry Steele would make his debut in the wind and rain. A ten minute cameo that begins a long football career for Harry Steele, a Terrigal United junior that has been in the ranks of the Academy for many years, now maturing into a composed and determined player.

Harry Steele
A young Harry Steele in his early Academy days

The final names from the Academy are all familiar to Mariners fans. Oliver Bozanic, leader, captain, and past Avoca Sharks player who graduated from the Academy in 2011 during the Championship winning season. Industrious centre-back Dan Hall, who has already added finals football to his resume. Lewis Miller, Australian U23 representative. The list goes on to include the names of Matthew Hatch, record breaking goal scorer, Damian Tsekenis, former Marconi Stallions striker and Max Balard, classy central midfielder.

For the eyes that befell McDonald Jones on derby day, they will describe it as a classic derby game that had it all, flashpoints, fans, colour and goals, but for those involved with the Mariners, a derby that will live long in the memory, a memory of what the Mariners produce and will continue to produce into the future.

Opportunities presented. Opportunities taken. The Mariners Academy on full show, with more in the wings waiting. The future is bright on the Central Coast, as they continue to give youth a chance.