Mrdja set for Mariners debut
After 434 days on the sidelines, Central Coast Mariners striker Nik Mrdja is belatedly set to make his
Hyundai A-League debut - against the Queensland Roar at Suncorp Stadium tomorrow.
Mrdja last played a competitive match on 20 August, 2005, when the Mariners claimed their first ever silverware - a 1-0 win over the Perth Glory in the inaugural Pre-Season Cup final at Bluetongue Central Coast Stadium.
Mrdja was replaced by fellow striker Stewart Petrie 17 minutes into the match after suffering an ultimately season ending injury.
The injury cruelly ruled the Mariners’ leading marksman out of the first season of Australia’s new football era, one where he was expected to shine after wowing audiences with dominating displays in pre-season – highlighted by a pair of hat tricks.
One of those hat tricks, significantly, was scored against the Mariners’ opponents this Saturday - the Queensland Roar in the opening round of the 2005 Pre-Season Cup.
Although set to be used only sparingly from the bench by Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna tomorrow, the presence of Mrdja amongst the Mariners’ frontline has provided a timely boost to a Mariners line up in form.
"Nik has been through a lot the last fourteen months and I’m as delighted as he is to see him back and available for selection," said McKinna.
"I have no doubt that if Nik was fit last season, he would have been one of the top goal scorers in the A-League.
"His finishing and nose for goal is among the best in the A-League and, although we can’t expect him to be firing from his first minute tomorrow, we know that in time he will recapture the form that made him such a tough opponent in our first pre-season."
In other squad news, wing back Vuko Tomasevic has been promoted at the expense of Tony Vidmar, who has been unable to train all week due to a back injury.
The only other absentee from the squad that triumphed over the Perth Glory last Friday is Andrew Clark, the Mariners’ third most capped player of all time, who is set for a two-week stint in the grandstands after straining his medial ligament.
Amazingly, in four previous A-League encounters between the Mariners and the Roar, no side has been able to boast a win.
Each A-League match up between the Mariners and the Roar has resulted in draws, the most recent of which was a 0-0 stalemate at Bluetongue Central Coast Stadium in Round 3.
In 2005/06, clashes between the Mariners and the Roar finished 1-1, 2-2 and 2-2.
After a slow start to their 2006/07 A-League campaign, the Mariners have recorded the best ever four-game stretch of results in their history.
In their four most recent matches, the Mariners have recorded three wins and one loss, a record better than any four game segment throughout the Mariners’ A-League history.
The Mariners’ previous best four-match streak was two wins and two draws, which they recorded on eight consecutive occasions last season.
"There’s nothing between us and the Roar, as our record would suggest," said McKinna.
"They’re coming off a loss at home and will be determined to get back on track against us and it’s not going to be easy by any stretch up there.
"Suncorp Stadium is one of the best arenas in the A-League and all of our players really lift when we play there and I’ll be hoping for much of the same tomorrow."
A-League Round 10
Queensland Roar vs Central Coast Mariners
Saturday night, October 28
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick off: 7:00pm (AEST)
Live Coverage on Fox Sports One from 7:00pm (AEST).
Team Line-up: 2 Wayne O'Sullivan, 3 Paul O’Grady, 4 Noel Spencer, 8 Jamie McMaster, 9 Nick Mrdja,
10 Tom Pondeljak, 11 Damien Brown, 12 Stewart Petrie, 14 Vuko Tomasevic, 17 Matthew Osman, 18 Alex Wilkinson,
19 Adam Kwasnik, 20 Danny Vukovic (gk), 25 Damien Mori, 30 Matthew Trott (gk).
The Mariners return to Bluetongue Central Coast Stadium on Saturday, 25 November, when they host FIFA World Cup winner and world football icon Romario for his only interstate appearance during his four-match guest stint with Adelaide United. Kick off is at 7pm.
Tickets are now on sale from Ticketek outlets, the Ticketek website – www.ticketek.com.au, or via phone on 132 849.