Fresh from leading his Central Coast Mariners side to the A-League championship, Graham Arnold has revealed he turned to a coach of a rival code for inspiration
|By JOHN GRECO at ALLIANZ STADIUM
Central Coast coach Graham Arnold has revealed a series of meetings and text messages from rugby league master-coach Wayne Bennett was the secret behind his side's breakthrough A-League championship.
The Mariners finally buried the demons of three previous grand final defeats to secure their first title with a well-deserved 2-0 win over Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday.
And Arnold paid tribute to the seven-time premiership-winning National Rugby League coach for helping the club finally break their drought.
Desperate to shed the club's bridesmaids tag, the Mariners boss sought out Bennett in the lead-up to the finals for some guidance on how to guide his side to the title.
"I'm always trying to learn and learn from the best and the best in Australia is Wayne Bennett," a jubilant Arnold said afterwards.
"I went and had lunch with Wayne and he's been a fantastic mentor for me over the last four weeks.
"With his experience he basically said, 'I will win you a grand final... I've done it six times so I'll tell you how to do it'."
"He was a real good shoulder that I could lean on to talk too, a guy that had a lot more experience than me.
"Even up to yesterday morning the text message that he sent me... 'Don't play the game today, you're playing tomorrow. Keep them relaxed'.
"I can't thank him enough."
Mariners captain John Hutchinson added of Bennett's influence: "Arnie loves his quote: 'Don't die with the music in you'. It's always on our board.
"It's just before games. [Arnold] gives us our team talk, we go out for warm-up, we come in and it's written on the board, with Wayne Bennett underneath it.
"That's been going for the past three or four weeks. It's something that, as Arnie says to the boys when we are leaving, just give it your all.
"No-one is going to complain if you give it your all when you come in.
"You have seen our team today, we don't stop. Today was our day."
It certainly was.
Right from the moment Mile Sterjovski grazed the crossbar inside 10 minutes, the Mariners were always in control of the match.
Defender Patrick Zwaanswijk, who is expected to announce his retirement in coming days, sent the Mariners on their way when he scored just before half-time with a powerful header from Michael McGlinchey's corner.
The Mariners continued to dominate after the break and made the game safe when A-League Golden Boot and Joe Marston Medal winner Daniel McBreen scored from the spot.
From there they were never going to let the decider slip, which goes someway to making up for losses on the final day of the season in 2006, '08 and '11.
"What did Jack Gibson say... 'Ding dong the witch is dead'," Arnold said.
"It's the same for us. It's very hurtful when people write that we're chokers.
"We've played in three grand finals in seven years before this... that was a motivation for us so thank you [media] for helping with that."
Hutchinson, who was a part of all three grand final defeats with the club, spoke about the relief of finally getting his hands on the trophy for the club.
"It is just a huge weight lifted off your shoulders and it's an amazing feeling," the Mariners captain said.
"The boys coming into the game were pretty relaxed. The young boys were all relaxed and looking forward to the game.
"I thought today we played really well. We played some good football, we had some great chances and I thought we deserved it."
The Mariners will not have long to celebrate their victory with the side to fly out of Sydney on Monday bound for Korea for their AFC Champions League clash with Suwon Bluewings on Tuesday