Mariners make a grab for Sydney's future stars

The battle for some of the best young footballing talent in Sydney is set to heat up with the Central Coast Mariners making a bold grab for the North Shore's rising stars.

The Mariners will extend their development footprint thanks to a landmark youth academy agreement with Northbridge FC.

The collaboration with Australia’s largest community football club will see the Mariners extend their catchment to about 75,000 registered footballers.

Club owner Michael Charlesworth told the goal was to “be in the top 100 development clubs in the world by the next FIFA World Cup in Russia in 2018.”

But the partnership, announced at Kirribilli on Sunday, could see them cross swords with Sydney FC who is the process of establishing their own youth academy.

The Sky Blues have been less than happy with the Mariners push into North Sydney in the past, including plans to move some of their home games to North Sydney Oval.

And while the Mariners have constantly denied any plans to relocate to North Sydney their catchment creep has been viewed dimly at Moore Park.

Past encroachments have brought the clubs to the brink of a turf war and the Mariners have made no secret that the latest development is about more than recruiting some of the state’s best talent.

The agreement is seen as a way to increase the club’s modest fan base, membership levels and promote interest in the club more widely. 

The Gosford outfit already has formal agreements with Central Coast Football and Western NSW Football and is hoping the latest deal will markedly bolster their influence.

The North Shore Mariners Academy will be administered by Northbridge FC, and will provide youngsters from the Skills Acquisition Program (SAP) through to the senior ranks the opportunity to represent the 2013 A-League Champions.

President of Northbridge FC Rory Grace said: “This is an amazing opportunity that will provide youth from across the North Shore with access to the best coaches in Australia. It will also create an unmatched pathway to high-performance football and a great opportunity to further educate our own coaches.”

The agreement includes a strong emphasis on coach education with mentors, selected to oversee the academy, instructed in the club’s coaching style and philosophy.

Charlesworth added: “The announcement of the North Shore Mariners Academy is the first of three fresh youth development agreements we are likely to unveil in coming weeks.

“Our record of transitioning talented youth from the Foxtel National Youth League level to the Hyundai A-League and beyond is second to none. We believe the youth developments we are announcing will keep us at the forefront of this field for many years to come.”