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Mariners celebrate their win. Mariners celebrate their win. Featured
21 May 2023 Posted by 


From wooden spooners to title contenders
STORY by Zachary Colwell | 
PICTURE by Ayush Kumar
FOOTBALL'S perennial battlers Central Coast Mariners take on the giants of Melbourne City in an Isuzu UTE A-League Grand Final for the ages at CommBank Stadium in Western Sydney on Saturday, June 3.
It will be the first Grand Final since 2012/13 for the Mariners who have defied the odds to win their way through the decider and they will bring scores of fans and a wave of Yellow and Navy to CommBank Stadium for their shot at title glory.
But the team with the smallest budget in the A-League will be up against arguably the A-League’s richest club Melbourne City, who are now in to their fourth Grand Final in as many years, triumphing in 2020/21 but suffering heart breaking losses to Sydney FC in 2019/20 and again to Western United last season.
The Mariners qualified for the Grand Final after one of the most famous nights in the history of the club, with a record A-League attendance of 20,059 turning out to see Nick Montgomery’s team score a magnificent 2-0 victory over Adelaide United in the second leg of their semi-final at Industree Group Stadium in Gosford.
That result gave the Mariners a 4-1 aggregate over the two-leg semi-final and set the stage for a Grand Final blockbuster against Melbourne City.
The pride that the Mariners have instilled in the local community was there for all to see when thousands of fans stayed back at Industree Group Stadium to be part of a group photo with the players.
As he surveyed the emotional scene, coach Montgomery told his players: “You have not only made a Grand Final, you have galvanised a community and brought so much happiness to the fans.”
The Mariners’ charge to the Grand Final has been described as the best story in Australian sport by respected Australian football writer Ray Gatt.
“The Mariners’ run to the Grand Final this season has been extraordinary given they were largely written off as top-six hopefuls let alone championship contenders at the start of the season,” Gatt said.
“But it’s nothing new for a club that has always had to do battle against the odds and do things the hard way.”
Indeed, the Mariners collected four wooden spoons in six seasons between 2015 and 2021 and there were times when genuine fears were held for the future of the Central Coast club.
CEO Shaun Mielekamp and Chairman Richard Peil were understandably bursting with pride after Saturday night’s game.
Now all eyes are on the Grand Final at CommBank Stadium on Saturday 3 June. 
The Mariners and Melbourne City faced off twice in the regular season, with City winning the first encounter 1-0 in sweltering conditions before a gripping 1-1 draw in Round 24 which was one of the games of the season, littered with chances down either end and played at a relentless tempo.
Who will you be cheering for on Grand Final night, when a huge celebration of football is planned? Will you sing for Yellow and Navy Blue or the Sky Blue, Red and White of Melbourne City?
Tickets go on sale to Grand Final Participating Club Members from 11am Monday, May 22, with Non-Participating Club Members able to purchase from 11am Tuesday, May 23.
General Public tickets go on sale from 11am Wednesday, May 24.
There is also an exclusive opportunity to watch this celebration of football at the A-League Grand Final in style with a Premium Experience at CommBank Stadium. Go here:  https://bit.ly/3MlKr2N 

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Michael Walls
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