Wilkshire and men’s academy sides ready for the NPL1 challenge

Central Coast Mariners NPL1 Head coach Luke Wilkshire is ready for a massive 2023 season, with our first grade and under 20’s sides set to face off against Western Sydney Wanderers in our league openers on Sunday afternoon. 

It has been a long and gruelling pre-season for both teams, training throughout the warm summer months to prepare for the rigors of a 30-round competition. The move up to NPL1 will see us face tougher opponents, with Wilkshire confident that the teams are prepared. 

“It has been a great pre-season; we have gotten to the start of the season with no soft tissue injuries in the squad which is a positive indicator for me that it was a good pre-season,” he said. 

“We have an abundance of talent here; they have been working hard and fighting for positions. They are fit and firing, the boys have been fantastic, and I am sure that they will hit the ground running.” 

Wilkshire is not oblivious to the challenges that playing in the newly expanded NPL1 competition will bring, with our teams set to face off against some of the most historic football clubs in the country. 

Alongside this year’s Australia Cup finalists Sydney United and last years champions Blacktown City, we will also come up against Wanderers, Sydney FC and Macarthur’s academy sides. 

Wilkshire ready for the teams to be tested against some of the nation’s best footballers as they look to develop their skills. 

“Our boys want to be pushed and tested, this is the step below the A-League, and it is where they need to be playing if they want to make that step up,” he said. 

“The boys will be playing against seasoned professionals and a lot of ex-A-League players. It is a great level for them to play at to prove themselves and show why they should be playing in the A-League. 

“They want to be professional players in the A-League and beyond, so this opportunity is what it is all about.”

The ex-Socceroos’ goal being to develop the players to a stage where they are A-League ready, looking to continue the Mariners proud tradition of cultivating some of Australia’s best footballing talent. 

“This weekend against the Wanderers is what they have worked hard for. It is time for them to get the rewards in the league for all of their hard work,” Wilkshire said.  

“The goal is for the side to improve every day, every week and to have a winning mentality. So, no matter what, when or who, when we come up against someone the expectation is to win.

“It is about development so I think that come the end of the season there will be a lot of players from this squad on people’s lips. Where that takes us we will see, but we will do everything week in, week out to prepare these boys.”

With the first round of the season taking place at Pluim Park this weekend, Wilkshire is hoping for a large turnout to help support the side. With Mariners members and anyone under 16 getting in for free, it should be an amazing afternoon of NPL action. 

“The Mariners are well renowned for the academy and bringing players through for the fans to get a glimpse of the up-and-coming stars. It is the next generation here who have grown up on the Central Coast,” he said.  

“For fans to get along and support them is always appreciated, it gives the players an opportunity to see what they can expect at the stadium soon enough.” 

Keep an eye out tomorrow for our NPL men’s season preview.