Moss sees bright days ahead for Mariners

Central Coast Mariners coach Phil Moss hailed the character of his travel-weary players following a week in which his side were narrowly edged out of the A-League Grand Final and AFC Champions League knockout stage.

The Mariners relinquished their grip on the A-League title after Western Sydney Wanderers overturned last year's grand final scoreline with goals at either end of a typically hard-fought semi-final at Pirtek Stadium on Saturday night.

Central Coast's preparation was less than ideal with the players barely fitting in a full training session during a week which included an emotionally and physically draining AFC Champions League encounter at J.League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Though the Mariners only arrived back in Australia 36 hours before the match, Moss refused to seek excuses preferring instead to heap praise on his side.

"We always expected it to be tough, particularly given the week that we've had," Moss said. "But I am just so proud of my players, the intensity and the energy that they put into this game considering what they have been through was just first class. I've got nothing but pride.

"You could see some mistakes tonight that came down to mental fatigue. But the players were ready to play.

"Of course there's a large part of me that's so disappointed with the result and the fact that we've fallen a game short of defending our title but I can't speak highly enough of my players.

"I wish Poppa (Wanderers coach Tony Popovic) and Western Sydney all the best, they deserved to go through tonight, they have had a settled team this year."

Moss believes a positive future exists for the club on and off the field, following a remarkable season in which the Mariners extensively changed squad personnel, while championship-winning coach Graham Arnold also exited early in the campaign.

"I said to someone the other day that our transfer market was done and dusted in January, we had enough player turnover in one month to last us a couple of years," Moss said with a wry smile.

"I am very happy with the nucleus that we've got and we're pretty settled for next year which is a big thing because we've had a massive five months, with five new additions in January and obviously my first year as head coach.

"I only see bright days ahead. We have some young guys coming through. There are a lot of positives to come out of this season."

Moss also paid tribute to Mariners forward Mile Sterjovski who played the final match in a long and distinguished career, capped by representing Australia at the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

"It's a shame that we couldn't go one step further for someone like Mile Sterjovski," said Moss.

"I've got nothing but superlatives for that guy. He's a consummate professional, he's had an unbelievable career, he's such a humble guy and he's been such a massive part of our dressing room, so we wanted to go one step further for him but we fell short."