After a memorable and deserved grand final triumph, Graham Arnold has finally given Central Coast the one thing they were missing.
Graham Arnold was happy to kill it. The tag everyone-s been slinging around in the week before the grand final. That Central Coast Mariners are chockers.
Not anymore they-re not.
“Yeah, what did Jack Gibson say? ‘Ding, dong, the witch is dead?'”, Arnold said after watching his team-s deserved triumph over Western Sydney Wanderers.
“It-s very hurtful when people write that we-re chokers. We-ve played three grand finals in seven years before this but it-s a totally different group of players that played, and two different coaches. That was the motivation for us.”
Not that the Mariners needed any motivation. In truth, they always looked in control. They went close a number of times in the first half - Mile Sterjovski hitting the bar with a wonderful lob, Trent Sainsbury and Bernie Ibini both inches from poking home the opener - before Patrick Zwaanswijk-s powerful header.
And in the second half, when the Wanderers were starting to turn on some pressure, the Mariners struck again, Danny McBreen also banishing those penalty ghosts with an unstoppable rocket from the spot.
And it was all part of the plan.
“We had a great week,” Arnold said. “We didn-t have any distractions; they had a few injuries but for us everything was spot on. The pitch was tough to play on but our football was very good.
“The focus was to stick to the game plan and nullify what they do best, which is their transitions into attack. We carried that out perfectly and kept Shinji Ono and Mark Bridge every quiet.
“We identified that (weakness on corners) on video analysis; if we could block one of their players. They man-mark that zone was free and the delivery from McGlinchey was spot on.”
Arnold also paid tribute to his top scorer. The man he called “a pain in the arse” was the man who put the Mariners in the driving seat for their first grand final triumph.
After a career that could best be described as a journeyman, Daniel McBreen has found a home on the Central Coast and Arnold found the way to get the best out of him.
“Leading goalscorer, Joe Marston Medal winner, 36 years of age; Daniel-s had a fantastic season and that a reward for all the work he does. He works extremely hard at training, we-ve changed his training loads and it-s worked for him.
“After we lost Tommy Rogic we had to come up with something different for a no.10 and Macca's not really a no.10 but the work rate he gives you in defence, we can play a 442 when we have the ball and his work rate is that good that when we lose it he-ll get back and give us an extra midfielder. Macca-s been superb.”
This season marks a high watermark for the Mariners. Even after last season-s premiership - with Arnold an avowed believer of first-past-the post - the Mariners boss paid tribute to his players, revealing that a team meeting decided where the club-s focus should lie this year.
“The motivation after we lost to Western Sydney at home… We changed our goals a little bit. We spoke about what we really wanted. We had a vote on what was more important, the premiership or the grand final.
"The players felt they-d won the premiership last season, so we went after what we hadn-t achieved and what the supporters wanted.”
And finally, Arnold was able to give the Mariners the one thing they-ve been missing. Chokers no more.