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Treble-winning Mariners enter ALM's greatest debate

3 minute read

A Central Coast Mariners' treble has ensured the A-League's smallest and often poorest club has enter the competition's greatest of all-time debate.

DANNY VUKOVIC. Picture: Mark Nolan/Getty Images

Their achievements are unrivalled and may never be beaten.

But after clinching an A-League Men championship to complete a treble the Central Coast Mariners have made a compelling case to be mentioned in the same breath as one of Australian football's greatest teams.

Saturday's 3-1 grand final win over Melbourne Victory will go down as one of Gosford's greatest nights.

The Mariners equalised in the 91st minute through Ryan Edmondson before the English striker and 18-year-old Miguel Di Pizio struck further blows to Victory in extra-time to lock up the title.

The nail-biting win prompted a pitch invasion, fans clambering to get a piece of a side that has made a habit of leaving it late, winning trophies and defying the odds on a shoestring budget.

The Mariners became just the third side to lift back-to-back titles in the ALM era, adding to their ALM premiership and an AFC Cup that came after 100,000km of travel to seal a treble.

"You don't ever sit out to win a treble, yeah you want to win everything but you might win one trophy and be happy with that," said skipper Danny Vukovic, while holding a beer for each trophy the club has won this year.

"As the season has progressed we've always been in it... I still can't believe it and that noise (at fulltime) was something I'll never forget."

The Mariners' journey is all the more remarkable considering that eight members of last year's grand final squad departed the club and manager Nick Montgomery moved to Scottish side Hibernian.

Even this year, new boss Mark Jackson suffered four ALM losses to start the season.

Since then they have lost just two of their last 38 games and they have done that despite top goalscorer, Colombian import Angel Torres, being absent for the end of the campaign after being stood down on police charges.

Their achievements will undoubtedly set up a debate as to where this Mariners side ranks in the pantheon of great ALM sides.

"You can always argue who's the best team ever in the A-League," said midfielder Josh Nisbet.

"But we can say we've had the most successful campaign by any team. That's factual, that's something that will be (our) legacy.

"We just pick up the right players who won't take the biggest wage, promote youth and I think we've nailed it on the head."

Vukovic, who began his senior career in the NSL, says this iteration of the Mariners deserved a place in the conversation.

The four-cap Socceroo, now 39, played against Ange Postecoglou's great Brisbane Roar sides and was a member of Sydney FC's glory-laden years under Graham Arnold.

"That's one for the fans and media to debate into the years," Vukovic said.

"At least we're putting our name in the mix and I think what we've done is incredible, in terms of the travel, everyone knows what we've done but to actually do it and complete it is just crazy."

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