Monday’s loss against Melbourne City handed the top of the table Mariners just their fourth loss of the A-League season.
The Central Coasters couldn’t escape horrible conditions, being met with a cold and wet Melbourne.
Floods across New South Wales caused Mariners’ coach Alen Stajcic his share of grief in addition to the loss.
The Coasters found themselves without proper grounds to train on leading into the game.
“We weren’t leg weary, we just couldn’t train properly last week,” Stajcic said post-game.
“When the rain started, we’d had one or two sessions earlier in the week because we had an eight day turnaround.
“By the third session of the week we went out on those new pitches out at Tuggerah, and within 15 minutes we had to cancel the session because the water had pooled onto the pitch… we had a pitch next door we weren’t allowed to train on.
“To have a professional sporting team on the Coast and not have a pitch that’s available to us 20 metres away was a bit disconcerting to be honest.
“We had to bring our flights forward just to get to Melbourne early to get a session in on game day minus one.
“Ultimately, it’s the last day before a game so you can’t do too much anyway.
“It sounds like an excuse, and I don’t want it to be one, but it makes it harder certainly when you’re playing against a team like Melbourne City. It just presented a bigger challenge.”
Even before the floods had taken effect, the Mariners had to compete with teams from other codes for their own training grounds.
A rugby ground across the road nearly provided refuge, but the side was ushered away.
“Next door, which had rugby posts on it, was bone dry,” Stajcic said.
“Regardless of the rain it was in immaculate condition.
“We were told there was a touch tournament on there next week and we weren’t allowed on it.
“As the head coach of the Mariners and the team that represents our community and has done it so well this year, I just thought it was hard to take.
“For the players to see a pitch next door and know that they’re not allowed on it, it’s just upsetting to be honest.
“That’s an issue for football across the country.
“We have to share facilities in Australia and that’s part of our sporting landscape and we just have to accept that.
“I love all our other codes we have in this country and the diversity of sport that we have, I just love it… particularly the NRL.
“Football really does have to put a stake in the ground in terms of our connections with local governments, state governments, federal governments if we’re to get the full experience and full range of access that we should have.
“We’re the biggest sport in the country in terms of participation, but at the professional and semi-professional level we’re held back due to lack of access to a lot of facilities.
“Being part of women’s football for such a long time that was a massive issue.
“To feel it at the professional men’s level, it does touch on the soul a bit that we don’t have anywhere enough of a say within the right levels of government to expose our sport in the right way and give every opportunity we can to our fans and our athletes to enjoy the game.”
In light of the floods and the loss, Stajcic has issued a rallying cry to Mariners supporters.
He believes the attendance levels and support for the team are not reaching their full potential.
This is especially a struggle for a team not based in a capital city like the Mariners.
“I’ve talked ad nauseum about how important it is for the A-League to have regional teams and the connection of football to a region,” Stajcic said.
“I feel like that connection’s been lost over the past few years here on the coast, and not because of anything in particular but maybe the team’s performance and people becoming disenfranchised with the team.
“The football community in the Central Coast should be really proud of what these boys have achieved to this point, because we’ve done it off the smell of an oily rag.
“Everyone can see the fight and the hunger, everyone can see the passion for the shirt, for the team, for each other. If they’re not going to get behind the team now they probably never will.
“I think the boys are representing the Central Coast in the best possible way.
“They need the fans to replicate that in droves. There’s always the core supporters who come and support, and we’re always thankful and grateful to them, but the whole football community of the Central Coast needs to come out and support the team, and show that they do love the team.
“Show that the coast do deserve to have a team in the A-League, and in the bigger picture, show that more regional clubs should be in the A-League and we should be able to spread the gospel to all parts of Australia.”