The Mariners have lost their voice

In an era when supporters groups are flexing their muscles, Central Coast fans seem to be getting quieter. Sooner or later, the Mariners have to stand up for themselves.

Mike Charlesworth reckons he'll be "furious" if the Central Coast Mariners don't get hosting rights for the Hyundai A-League grand should they earn them.

"The people of the Central Coast will demand the match be played at Bluetongue," adds the recently-installed majority owner of the club.

I'm not so sure about that.

At this point, of course, we're talking hypotheticals. Brisbane Roar need to eliminate Western Sydney Wanderers first and then - it goes without saying - the Mariners will need to live up to their side of the bargain by beating Melbourne Victory.

That being the case, under the spirit of the regulations, Gosford would then be in position to host the title-decider for the first time. Don't hold your breath.

Five years ago, in a similar situation, Football Federation Australia took the grand final to Sydney instead. History tells us Newcastle Jets won the most important F3 derby of them all. Whether missing out on home advantage cost the Mariners is a moot point. And there's the point.

In an era when supporters groups are flexing their muscles in all sorts of ways (my personal view is that some are behaving beyond their remit), the Mariners fans seem to be heading in the opposite direction.

When everyone else is getting louder, they're getting quieter. It is one of the few disappointments of the Hyundai A-League that Bluetongue Stadium has lost its atmosphere.

It was there, at the start. The "Marinators" set the standard for active support going into the first season of the competition back in 2005.

Slowly, but surely, it's disappeared. There's been plenty of finger-pointing since, but the dilemma has yet to be resolved. Hats off to those who have been trying to bring back the mojo to the northern terrace over the last year or so, but progress has been painfully slow.

Ironically, if these supporters are looking for a catalyst, the likelihood that they'll again miss out on hosting a grand final could be it.

Numbers, themselves, aren't a problem. It's easy, and lazy, to suggest Mariners crowds are dragging the competition down. Wrong. This season, their averages beat four other clubs, and they finished agonisingly short (9,921) of the magical five-figure benchmark.

By my reckoning, that's a huge positive, not a negative, in the smallest market in the competition.

If you spend any time in the Central Coast, you can see how deeply embedded the club is within the community. When you walk into a bastion of old values like the Killcare Surf Club, and see Mariners merchandise prominently on display, you need to be proud of what the club has achieved.

After eight years, the Mariners are edging close to having visited every single primary school in the region. Truth is, in promotional terms, there's not much more they can do.

Everyone from Gwandalan to Pearl Beach knows who the club is, and what it stands for. In rusted-on rugby league territory, that is a monumental achievement.

The challenge for those who care most passionately is to start making themselves heard. Over the years, there have been innumerable examples of the club feeling aggrieved about the way it has been treated by head office or the media. A victim's mentality has entrenched itself. Ultimately, this only creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sooner or later, the Mariners have to stand up for themselves.

And that's where the crowd comes in. Look at what people power has done for Melbourne Victoty, or Western Sydney Wanderers. In the right way, it's important to make people listen.

The club gets it. Take a look at Bernie Ibini's recent call-to-arms for Finals TV. Isn't that a straight-up appeal for the fans to start making some noise? Some real noise.

The players love playing at Bluetongue, but if they're honest they'll tell you they're desperate to feed off some atmosphere. There's only one group that can provide it.

If results fall a certain way, at full-time against the Victory there will be a stadium full of people believing they have earned the right to come back a week later for more.

You can't see them protesting in Gosford's Mann Street if that decision goes against them. But, at the very least, it could light the fuse to go back to where it all began.