Mariners ready to fire

Stand-in Central Coast skipper Patrick Zwaanswijk believes the Mariners are primed to make an early season statement when they begin their Hyundai A-League season against the Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.

Stand-in Central Coast skipper Patrick Zwaanswijk believes the Mariners are primed to make an early season statement when they begin their Hyundai A-League season against the Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.

In a replay of last season's spectacular grand final, the Mariners and Roar are eager to renew hostilities and are desperate to hit the ground running after such a long pre-season.

The Mariners were dealt a major blow ahead of the Round 1 showdown when regular skipper Alex Wilkinson was ruled out after picking up a slight arm fracture during the team's two-match trip to New Zealand last week.

Although only a minor fracture, the Mariners decided against risking Wilkinson so early in the season. Coach Graham Arnold said Wilkinson was a good chance to return for the Mariners' Round 2 match against Gold Coast at Gosford next week.

While admitting losing Wilkinson was a blow, Zwaanswijk is adamant the Mariners can still beat the Roar.

"It's good playing Brisbane in the first round, we get to see where we are at straight away," Zwaanswijk said.

"We need to be at a high level from the start of the year and I think we will be."

With last season's Grand Final over six months ago Zwaanswijk said it was the most difficult pre-season preparation of his long and distinguished career.

The central defender played at a high level in Europe for well over a decade and never had such a long gap between seasons.

"It was difficult to adapt but it's the same for every team," he said.

"The coaching staff did a great job with us, we're ready to go."

Zwaanswijk said it was a big honour to be named as skipper, even if it is for just one match.

"It's unlucky for Wilko but he'll be back pretty quickly I hope," he said.

"The big thing with us this season is the depth we've got in the squad."