Mariners put down roots in central west

Talented players slip through the system too often, but developments in regional New South Wales could ensure good players are spotted more frequently.

Talented players have slipped through the system far too often, but developments in regional New South Wales could ensure good players are spotted more frequently.

Steven Ugarkovic was the latest of those many stories with the Sydney-born 18-year-old recently making his international debut for the Croatian Under-19s.

If talent like that goes unidentified, imagine what has been missed in regional areas in the past.

There have been good stories from regional NSW, where the likes of Archie Thompson (Bathurst), Nathan Burns (Blayney), Adrian Leijer (Dubbo) and Rhyan Grant (Canowindra) have hailed from.

Former Sydney FC defender Nathan Sherlock, now playing with Sydney United 58 in the New South Wales Premier League, saw good players slip through in Orange but believes there are more opportunities in camps now.

"A lot of players were coming from other towns just to be in the Orange one - whether it be Bathurst or close around," he said.

"Now I'm sure there is one in every town and just for one team, it varies for all the age groups.

"I know when I did it there was a lot of players from the age of eight to 12 training in the one team, one program.

"It's a little bit hard - especially for the young guys. It's tough for the coaches to put forward the sessions to cater for both.

"I think there are programs being put in place now that are a lot better.

"Obviously with the rise of certain players - for example Rhyan Grant from a central area - it shows there are quality players out there that might not have the same look at as a Sydney kid or somewhere around here.

"I know when I played there were a lot of great players that missed out."

Unsurprisingly, Hyundai A-League champions Central Coast Mariners are leading the way in getting the kids identified.

There is a strong connection between the club and the Western NSW Mariners, who are playing in the third tier in the state.

Such alignments and structures should provide more opportunities, a clear sign the times have changed.

"Training was only once a week because of how hard it is to get everybody together out in those country areas whereas here in Sydney, that I've obviously experienced myself, it's only an hour maximum to get a whole team together which you can do every week," Sherlock said.

"Back when I was playing in western and Orange, it was a bit harder because you've got guys coming from Dubbo and Lithgow and it can be a three-hour trip just for one training session so it's a little bit tougher.

"I think it is different now with more structures in place.

"I know the Mariners have reached out into the community which is good for the Mariners and good for the central west as well.

"It gives players more of an opportunity to be looked at and developed by senior coaches."

The improved setup plays a huge part in the area, as does the growing popularity of the A-League.

Sherlock believes more kids are opting to try their hand at football despite other sports still being better-liked in the areas.

"With the rise of football in Australia in general over the past five years, it's slowly getting bigger as well," he said.

"I think the country codes are dominated by your rugby codes ... AFL is quite high as well. Participation wise I think it is growing a lot more."

And with those areas both improving, perhaps the Ugarkovic's of Australia will no longer be allowed to slip by.