Central Coast Mariners 2018/19 preview: More than a Usain Bolt sideshow

Usain Bolt Central Coast Mariners
A Jamaican has stolen the headlines, but Central Coast could catch the eye this season for very different reasons

After dropping off the radar in recent seasons, a trial for Usain Bolt has put Central Coast Mainers well and truly back on the map.

While the Olympic champion will no doubt dominate discussion for some time, the club themselves will be out to prove they themselves are worthy of keeping an eye on this season.

With a new coach, an overhauled squad and a superstar on trial, Central Coast could be about to turn their fortunes around.

Mike Mulvey's Mariners makeover

Mike Mulvey Central Coast Mariners

Despite winning the A-League double with Brisbane Roar in 2013/14, Mulvey found himself sacked just a month into the next season.

After a few years in Malaysia, the 55-year-old has sealed his return to the competition and is a man on a mission with the Mariners.

Determined to overhaul the squad he was inheriting, an 8-2 thrashing in the final game of the season which handed Central Coast the wooden spoon gave Mulvey the mandate to radically shake things up at the club. 

With 15 players joining his senior squad and 12 departing, the Mariners will boast a team sheet nearly unrecognisable from last season.

Though there will be a few familiar faces, a fresh batch of talent has been recruited with Mike Phelan no doubt playing his part in getting some impressive deals across the line.

From Socceroo hopefuls Aiden O'Neill and Tommy Oar, to a loan move for Scottish star Ross McCormack - Central Coast have managed to secure some very solid names for the season ahead.

Lesser known NPL trio Jordan Murray, Josh Macdonald and Matt Millar have also been given the chance to impress with Murray in particular a potentially shrewd investment from the club.

While the squad itself might not be the strongest in the league, it's far stronger than it has been in years gone by and should give fans some hope of a revival. 
Mulvey himself will be desperate to impress and prove Brisbane were wrong to sack him so abruptly. 

Old heads and promising youngsters

Central Coast Mariners 2018/19 kit

Though the Mariners will have a number of experienced players to call on this season, they've found an ideal mix of young and old with an average squad age of 24.

In the form of a returning Matt Simon, the reliable Ben Kennedy in goals and veteran Kaliffa Cisse, Central Coast have a tried and tested trio to call on when times get tough.

At the other end of the age spectrum are talented youngsters Peter Kekeris, Mario Shabow and Aiden O'Neill - all desperate to defy their young age and shine this season.

Then in the words of Goldilocks, the Mariners have found players that are 'just right' when it comes to age.

Dutch midfielder Tom Hiariej has just turned 30 after a solid first season with the club, Tommy Oar is just 26 with his best still hopefully to come and McCormack at 32 has age still on his side. 

Will Usain Bolt become a Mariner?

Usain Bolt Mariners

It's the trial that's made headlines around the world and very literally put the Central Coast on the map.

And while his ability with the round ball will unlikely ever set the world alight, Bolt's dream of becoming a footballer is set to become a reality with the Mariners.

After taking a gamble on the Jamaican and hitting a marketing jackpot, Central Coast would be crazy to walk away from the table without rolling the dice once more.

With Bolt being put through an intense training regime, the sprint king should get up to a level of skill by January where he won't embarrass himself or the club with a few cameos off the bench. 

Not only would the appearances justify Bolt's decision to head Down Under, it would once again provide the Mariners with a potentially much-needed boost at the end of the season.

While there are some encouraging signs for the club, it will be a real challenge for them to make the A-League finals straight away, in turn making a Bolt cameo at the end of season something the fans could cheer about instead. 

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Predicted finish: 9th

Star player: Ross McCormack

Breakout player: Peter Kekeris