Ahead of their fourth grand final, some people won't let the Mariners forget previous failures. But Lawrie McKinna says the club are only focusing on success.
It-s one of the worst tags in the Hyundai A-League. And one the Central Coast Mariners can-t escape. Never mind the pre-season cup, two premierships, and soon-to-be four grand final appearances. Before they face Western Sydney Wanderers in yet another title decider, no one will let the Mariners forget the nickname: Central Choke Mariners.
The club doesn-t want it, the players do their best to ignore it. And unsurprisingly, former coach, now director of football Lawrie McKinna can-t stand it.
“I don-t agree with it,” McKinna tells footballaustralia.com.au. “OK, we-ve been in three grand finals and not won one but we-ve made the grand final again; I-m sure a lot of other teams would-ve loved to be in four grand finals.
“And each of the games, they-ve been very tight, it-s not as though we-ve bottled it on the day. A bit of magic from Dwight Yorke in year one, Mark Bridge scored a great goal year two after Viddy stood on the ball; we conceded two goals in extra time and lost on penalties in year three.
“People can say what they want but I-d rather focus on the achievement of the club getting to four grand finals in eight years.”
In essence it all comes down to how you measure success. Some would argue trophies are the only true indicator, by which the Mariners have failed to live up to their own regular-season standards.
There is another school of thought, however. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger once said that goals aren-t the aim of playing well, they-re the result.
The same could be said for grand final medals. In a competition as even as the A-League, what separates the best from the rest is consistency. And the Mariners have always been there or thereabouts at the end of the season.
Perhaps it-s just part of Australia-s sporting culture, to love the winner above all else. No one will let them forget those falls at the final hurdle.
But McKinna says forget about history. You can learn from it but what matters is your preparation for the game in front of you.
“It-s totally out of the window; you just get ready for the game. Arnie-ll keep everything as low key as possible this week. It-s going to be a very even game - but it-s just another game. But being a grand final there-ll be a few more nerves on both sides.”
As the narrative around this year-s decider is written, the Wanderers have their fairy tale, while the Mariners have to wonder - is this finally their year? Western Sydney might be riding on the crest of a wave but the Central Coast squad has seen it all before and will be ready for whatever comes their way.
“In year one we had all the excitement. There was a great crowd and atmosphere on the Coast, a great day and to do so well and then to sit on that field after the game waiting for that presentation was hard.
“Year three, some people said the semi-final victory, when we had to win 3-0 against Newcastle to qualify, was like our grand final but I don-t agree with that. Getting beaten 1-0, the handball miss at the end of the game, the situation with Danny Vukovic, it all left a sour note in the mouth.
“And then two years ago as a, fan and an employee of the club, I actually enjoyed the spectacle of the grand final but to lose the way we did, it was heartbreaking.
“But this season, you look at Mat Ryan, Patrick Zwaanswijk, Rose, Bojic, Hutch, McBreen, Bozanic, McGlinchey - all these players years from two years ago, the experience and the hurt of having it in the bag and losing it…
“We all know western Sydney fans will be out in great numbers and there-ll be a great atmosphere but the experience will help our boys. We-ve proved over the year we-re as consistent as Western Sydney as we-ve got every chance to win our first grand final. I don-t think anyone can say we don-t deserve it.”