Nick Montgomery’s squad for the 2021/22 Isuzu UTE A-League season is continuing to be built, with the upgrade of Max Balard to a full time A-League contract, and the promotion of Damian Tsekenis as a scholar.
Tsekenis will join Matt Hatch as our second scholar this season after the latter enjoyed a great break-out season, scoring the fastest goal of a professional debutant in world football, just 25 seconds after entering the field.
Damian Tsekenis joined the Mariners Academy during the 2018/19 NYL season after making the move from Marconi Stallions, where he caught the attention of Mariners coaches after scoring plenty of goals in the NPL 2 U20s.
He was on course to break into the first team before an injury set back his progress, and now Tsekenis is going to try even harder to be part of Montgomery’s plans.
“I am feeling very privileged to be given this opportunity and am humbled that Monty [Nick Montgomery] and Sergio [Raimundo] see me as contributing to the first team. They have had belief in me and my ability since I joined the academy, and to be rewarded with a scholarship contract is a great honour.”
“I want to make this year my breakthrough season and when you look at the likes of Alou [Kuol] who is now in Germany, there’s no reason to say that I can’t do the same. I just need to put my head down and work hard and hopefully the rewards will come” Tsekenis said.
Max Balard was a scholar last year and enjoyed experiences of A-League football alongside the likes of Oliver Bozanic in the heart of midfield. Balard made five appearances for the first team last year, making his starting debut against Melbourne City where he impressed in the top of the table clash.
Max joined the Mariners Academy in 2018 from Hakoah Sydney City East where he was scouted from a NSW All Schools tournament. This year, the 20-year-old is wanting to achieve all he can personally and collectively with the team.
“It has been a dream come true to sign my first professional contract and I am extremely thankful to the club who have helped me along with my development, especially Monty and Sergio.”
“I cannot wait to showcase what I can do for this team during this season and beyond” Balard said.
“I also want to acknowledge the sacrifice my family have made in getting me to this point who I will forever be thankful to.”
Mariners Head of Football Ken Schembri spoke of his delight in the club continuing to promote youth players and giving them a chance on the biggest stage.
“We are delighted to give two more Academy players the opportunity to become Professional Footballers. We have continued to show that we believe in giving youth a chance at the highest level” Schembri said
This will provide Mariners Head Coach Nick Montgomery with more options in his squad which is a good headache to have.
“As a club, we pride ourselves on giving young players opportunities, but only those that deserve to be there. We will be looking to add to the scholars in the new year and everyone at the club is thankful for the investment that our sponsors make at a youth level, which make these opportunities possible.”
“Max and Damian will be a fantastic asset to our squad this season and I look forward to working with them more into the future” Montgomery said.
The Central Coast Mariners will be looking to utilise these talented individuals throughout the Isuzu UTE A-League season.