The first will see the development and expansion of the Mariners Academy through a new scholarship program for 14 to 18-year-old boys in conjunction with the Central Coast Academy of Sport (CCAS).
The new scholarship program will see elite young players from the Mariners? grassroots network ? which includes partnerships with football associations on the Central Coast, Gladesville-Hornsby and Ku-Ring-Gai ? identified and offered expert high-level coaching between February and December each year.
Initially, there will be two scholarship squads based on the Central Coast and two based at Northern Sydney, with each location hosting one squad for boys aged 14 to 15 and one for boys aged 16 to 18 ? each squad will contain between 16 and 20 players.
CCAS will provide additional services to the scholarship squads, including, but not limited to, physiological testing, sports psychology and broader athlete services.
In a further boost to the new scholarship program, the Mariners have signed a long-term high performance partnership with Westfields Sports High School ? commonly regarded as the premier football development school in the country.
In addition to scouting scholarship talents from each of the aforementioned grassroots networks, the Mariners Academy scholarship program will feature the best Westfields Sports High School talents each year ? an exceptional coup for the Mariners given the amazing track record of football success stories to emerge from the Westfields Sports High School program.
At the Mariners alone, Hyundai A-League stars Danny Vukovic and midfielder Matthew Osman are graduates of Westfields Sports High School, as are NYL players Tim McGowan and Glen Trifiro, in addition to Jodie Bain and Stephanie Haim from the Westfield W-League.
Both partnerships have been signed and sealed and will begin imminently, with the first of the Mariners Academy scholarship programs set to commence in the coming weeks at Jubilee Park, The Entrance and at Knox Grammar School, Wahroonga.
Programs designed specifically to develop elite women players for future Mariners Westfield W-League campaigns are currently being constructed and will be outlined in detail in the near future.
“Nurturing the grassroots has always been a cornerstone of our operations at the Mariners and these partnerships reflect the hard work and energies we?ve dedicated to ensuring that our club sets the benchmark for any player that dreams of one day wearing the crest of a Hyundai A-League club,” said Mariners Executive Chairman Lyall Gorman.
“We thank the Central Coast Academy of Sport and Westfields Sports High School for their foresight in linking with our Academy scholarship program, which I?m certain will have a most positive effect on all parties concerned.
“Of course, there are still improvements that we can make in the field of talent identification and youth development, but at this time we?re delighted with the progress that we have made so early in our history and we?re greatly encouraged by the results that await us as an effect of these partnerships in the medium to long term future.”
The new Mariners Academy scholarship program expands upon the existing Mariners Academy structure, where boys aged between 8 and 14 years train twice weekly with high performance coaches to develop and improve their game under regular supervision from Mariners coaches and players.
Already regarded as the Hyundai A-League?s most proactive club in terms of youth development and talent identification, this latest initiative clearly separates the Mariners from their rivals as the premier club in terms of providing a clear pathway for aspirant professionals from their local clubs to the NYL, Westfield W-League and Hyundai A-League.
It is intended for the Mariners Academy scholarship squads to travel abroad by the end of 2009 to take part in international tournaments that will serve to enhance the football knowledge and culture of future Mariners players, while high achievers will be given opportunities to train with the Mariners NYL and Hyundai A-League squads.
Ultimately, it is hoped that by introducing aspirant footballers to the Mariners Academy system from as early as 8-years-old, players can progress through the Mariners Academy until they are 14, before graduating to the scholarship program and then compete for an NYL and Hyundai A-League squad berth having completed a unique and thorough football education.
“These partnerships are really one of a kind in terms of youth development and talent identification pathways for Australian footballers,” said Mariners Coaching” Development Manager Tony Walmsley.
“We feel as though we?ve really raised the bar through these partnerships, where the immediate opportunity now exists for outstanding young players from the Central Coast and its surrounding regions to really advance their ambitions for an NYL and Hyundai A-League career.”
The Mariners? third Finals Series campaign will begin with a blockbuster clash against the Queensland Roar in the Minor Semi Final ? 1st Leg at Bluetongue Stadium on Friday, 6 February. Kick off is at 8pm.
Tickets for this match are available from Ticketek outlets, from the Ticketek website ? www.ticketek.com.au, or via phone on 132 849.