Home Sports Bolt a distant memory as Mariners contest A-League final

Bolt a distant memory as Mariners contest A-League final

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Bolt a distant memory as Mariners contest A-League final

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Central Coast Mariners have come a long way since their flirtation with Usain Bolt and fast fame five years ago, culminating in a "David v Goliath" A-League final on Saturday.

The Australian league's youngest club meet a formidable Melbourne City – a sister team of Pep Guardiola's Manchester City – in the season finale in Sydney.

It is a far cry from 2018 when the struggling Mariners, based north of Sydney, sparked global headlines by giving retired superstar sprinter Bolt an "indefinite" try-out to raise their profile.

His presence was derided as a gimmick and the then-32-year-old ultimately departed without fulfilling his ambition to become a professional footballer after failing to agree terms.

The Mariners – who helped launch the managerial career of now-Socceroos coach Graham Arnold – went on to pocket their fourth wooden spoon in five years.

But in a remarkable turnaround under Leeds-born coach Nick Montgomery, they have harnessed young talent to haul themselves out of the doldrums and into their first A-League final in a decade.

"We can't wait to walk out and whatever happens we'll give it a good crack," said Montgomery, who joined the club as a player when his long career at Sheffield United ended in 2012.

He went on to become youth coach and then the Mariners' head coach in 2021.

"We know we can beat anybody, so we'll go in full of confidence and go in and try to win the game against a very good Melbourne City team.

"There will be a bit of a David versus Goliath battle but we're looking forward to it," he added.

They face a big task against City, who easily topped the standings in the regular season and are in their fourth consecutive final. Last year they were beaten by Western United.

In their two meetings against the Mariners this season, City eked out a narrow 1-0 victory at home before a 1-1 draw away last month.

Their success has again been built on the back of the goal-scoring exploits of Socceroo Jamie Maclaren, who has netted 24 times.

But they have also relied heavily on young talent, led by Europe-bound left-back Jordan Bos and forward Marco Tilio.

Long-time City captain Scott Jamieson will hang up his boots after the game and would love a winning send-off.

"I'm under no illusions that just because it's my final game, it gives us an edge or an advantage – it doesn't," he said.

"It would be a dream if it did finish the way I'd like it to finish, but nothing about Saturday night changes."

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