Mariners spark New Year’s Eve fireworks again

It might not have the explosive glamour of Sydney harbour but the Mariners’ annual New Year’s Eve game has become a tradition that unites the local community in a way other Hyundai A-League clubs can only envy.

It might not have the world renown or explosive glamour of Sydney harbour but the Central Coast Mariners- annual New Year-s Eve game has become a tradition that unites the local community in a way other Hyundai A-League clubs can only envy.

The fixture, now the only certainty in the season scheduling, started slowly. A touch more than 11,000 fans turned up to the first New Year-s Eve game against the Newcastle Jets in 2005, and the club put in all the funding for the fireworks show that followed, hoping to keep the party atmosphere going after a 4-1 win against their new local rivals.

But it has gone from strength to strength in the years since, to become the club-s reliably biggest crowd, outside of the finals. Almost 15,000 saw in 2012 last year, and the club is expecting a similar attendance against Perth Glory.

For Mariners chairman Peter Turnbull, it-s just another example of how hard the club have worked to weave themselves into the fabric of life on the Central Coast.

“We realised early on that we didn-t have the population to be distanced from the community," Turnbull says.

"So right from the start we decided to engage the community and the New Year-s Eve games is a classic example, as is the primary school program we run and the club nights for local clubs.

“I don-t know whose idea it was but we were the ones who volunteered to try out New Year-s Eve and it-s been a resounding success. The community-s come on board, Gosford race club has races on and if you buy a ticket for the Mariners you get into the races. And after the races and football you have the fireworks on Brisbane Water.

“We get a lot of feedback from fans, from the yellow army and the consultation we-ve been taking on board and New Year-s Eve is a highlight for the community and the club as a whole.”

This New Year, the Mariners still smarting from the spiteful loss to Sydney FC and missing Tom Rogic through suspension, host Perth, the side that knocked them out of the finals last season.

It seems likely Mariners fans won-t have to wait until the game has finished for the fireworks to begin.

Following a day at the races and the waterside show after the game, it-s a dream for Lawrie McKinna, the Mariners director of football and now Gosford mayor, who has a unique understanding on how the fixture has grown in importance and relevance.

“Early doors I don-t think Gosford council realised how important it was,”McKinna says. “I know the club struggled to get some assistance and the council chipped in, and their contribution has grown. (Gosford City Council and club sponsors Masterfoods are now the major contributors to funding the event.)

"But now they realise how big a thing it is, it gets people in the centre of Gosford on New Year-s Eve which is usually a ghost town.

“The local community and a lot of people that come up for their holidays as well. I-ll be at the races because they-ve got the Mayor-s Cup that I have to present. And we-ve got one family coming from Rockhampton, the Muirs.

"They-ve organised a big trip down and they-re big fans of Danny Vukovic and myself, because they-ve done this before and built their holidays around coming down here for New Year-s Eve to catch up with us.

“And because we-re a community you can actually do things like that and get that feeling. When the game-s finished, people spill out of the ground and onto the foreshore; whether it-s a win or a loss, it-s not about that, it-s about the community getting together.”

And with the Mariners still two points clear at the top of the ladder, the Central Coast community will be hoping it's another happy new year.