Mariners turn focus to ACL

Central Coast Mariners mentor Lawrie McKinna insists his side's inglorious end to the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 Season is already a distant memory, as preparations for their maiden AFC Champions League campaign intensify.

Central Coast Mariners mentor Lawrie McKinna insists his side's inglorious end to the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 Season is already a distant memory, as preparations for their maiden AFC Champions League campaign intensify.

Speaking ahead of the first of two friendly fixtures to be played on the club's reconnaissance mission to China, the coach welcomed the chance to start afresh having suffered five straight defeats to end their domestic season.

The Mariners will square off with Chinese Super League newcomers Jiangsu Sainty on Saturday before taking on defending champions Shandong Luneng.

"It's a new competition for us so going over here is a good opportunity to look at a couple of things," McKinna said.

"Training's been good, with a few new faces coming in everything's picked up, and we're over the doom and gloom of the last few games and looking ahead to the Champions League."

"It's an exciting time for the club."

The tour presents new signings Adam Kwasnik, Nick Rizzo and Shane Huke with a chance to impress.

McKinna confirmed the newcomers will all receive significant game time in both fixtures.

But while the new faces will be out to make their mark, he says the tour is a chance for the entire squad to learn valuable lessons.

"We're using this as a dummy run for the Champions League," he said.

"Obviously our second game is against one of the Chinese teams so playing against two Super League teams - and one of them are the champions - it's great preparation for us," he said.

"It'll give us an idea what to expect from them because everything's new to us."

"We've watched Adelaide, we've watched Melbourne and Sydney in the past but until you're actually playing against these teams face on you don't really know what to expect."

The Mariners' campaign begins on March 11 when they host Korean side Pohang Steelers, with their second match to be played in China against Tianjin Teda.