Zac touts 'back-to-back' Mariners

Central Coast Mariners defender Zac Anderson is confident the club can successfully defend their A-League title.

Anderson said the reigning champions are getting back to their best as they prepare for Saturday’s F3 derby, although in his eyes Brisbane Roar remain the benchmark side of the competition.

Long-time assistant coach Phil Moss took over the reins from Graham Arnold in November and the Gosford outfit has managed two wins and two draws from its last four matches. The Mariners currently sit in third place on the A-League ladder.

“For us I think we’re flying under the radar again, which we like,” Anderson said.

“There’s a fantastic dynamic at the club. Mossy’s come in and it’s been a seamless transition from Arnie.

“The structures have all kind of stayed the same and players are pushing each other every week for positions, which is what you want. You want competition for places.

“The club’s going from strength to strength. I think any transition period you go through a bit of a lull and everyone needs to find their feet again.

“But mentally the boys are in a good place, the boys are confident, they’re motivated and ambitious and we’re going into an exciting period where we’ve got the ACL (Asian Champions League) as well.

“Last year we went through it so we know how to deal with the ACL pressure and the finals pressure.

“The boys are really motivated and there’s no reason why we can’t go back-to-back.

“Hopefully Mossy can bring in a few additional players to cover the injuries we’ve had, which will definitely strengthen the squad. The boys are hungry for a second title for sure.”

It’s been six months of change for the Mariners with the departures of players Mathew Ryan and Oliver Bozanic overseas, along with the more recent exits of head coach Arnold, assistant Andrew Clark and midfielder Michael McGlinchey to Japan. Marcos Flores has also suffered a season-ending injury.

And while there has been widespread concern about the overall standard of football in the competition this season, Anderson believes the criticism is a little unfair.

“I think it’s that teams are tactically more aware now,” the 22-year old said. “Teams understand how other teams are playing.

“Last year the Wanderers had a fantastic season but no one saw that coming. Everyone wrote them off. Now they understand every week when they play the Wanderers they’re going to be up for a big game.

“It’s just like ourselves, we’re the champions from last season and every week whoever we play rises. It’s a hugely competitive league and that’s illustrated by ex-players like Harry Kewell coming back and saying how tough it is. There are no easy games. Everyone is on a level playing field and you have to go out and perform if you want to get results.”

A Queensland Academy of Sport junior, Anderson made his A-League debut with Gold Coast United in 2009. The centre back joined the Mariners in 2012 and this season he has made eight appearances for the club.

Anderson has been impressed by the Roar, the Wanderers and the Victory this campaign but stresses it is a very even competition.

“I think personally Brisbane Roar is still the benchmark,” he said.

“On their day they’re the best. But you can’t write off the Wanderers, you can’t write off Melbourne Victory and for that matter, Adelaide are on the way up as well.

“Confidence is a massive thing. If a team gets on a bit of a roll like Adelaide are at the moment, it’ll be an interesting competition come finals time.”