‘Best scenes ever’: Mariners do unthinkable

The Mariners have done the unthinkable. Photo: Getty Images
The Mariners have done the unthinkable. Photo: Getty Images

The magical sporting story that is the Central Coast Mariners has delivered the ultimate final chapter, claiming back-to-back A-League championship wins and a history making treble of trophies in season 2023/24.

The Mariners claimed the second straight crown in an epic 3-1 extra time win over the Melbourne Victory in Gosford.

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It didn’t look like the fairytale would get the happy ending after Victory’s Jason Geria put the Melburnians 1-0 up in the 50th minute.

But just when it seemed like the hunt to become the first Australian club to win the treble of the A-League premiership, AFC Cup and A-League championship would stumble at the final hurdle, English striker Ryan Edmonson delivered a superb normal time equaliser in the 91st minute to break Victory hearts, just minutes away from what would have been a record equalling fifth Australian football title.

His heroics were matched by that of Mariners youngster Miguel Di Pizio who struck early in the first half of extra-time, finishing off a move that he started himself.

The 18-year-old drove forward from midfield and got on the end of a Ronald Barcellos cross to become the youngest scorer in A-League Grand Final history.

As the Victory pushed forward in hope of an extra-time equaliser, Edmondson added his second to secure the Joe Marston Medal for best on ground and ultimately seal a treble winning feat that is simply hard to fathom for a club that was once the laughing stock of the competition.

The Mariners have done it! Photo by Izhar KHAN / AFP
The Mariners have done it! Photo by Izhar KHAN / AFP

The matchwinning moments sent a record breaking, sellout crowd of 21,379 in Gosford into utter delirium as they celebrate a club that is now the jewel of the region as it continued to defy every obstacle possible over the last two years to become arguably the best single season team in A-League history.

That emotion spilled over on the final whistle as the Mariners fans ran onto the field to celebrate with their heroes and manager Mark Jackson in spectacular scenes not seen before in an A-League Grand Final but one fitting of an Australian football feat that is simply unmatched.

Fans were blown away by the incredible scenes as the packed crowd flooded onto the pitch to celebrate as a community.

A-League Men Grand Final - Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Victory
Alou Kuol celebrates with fans. Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
The Mariners fans went mad. Photo: Channel 10
The Mariners fans went mad. Photo: Channel 10

Incredibly, the fans also left the pitch just as quickly for the trophy presentation.

Although some pointed to the safety issues of thousands of fans surrounding the players, most were blown away by the celebrations.

4BC executive producer Luke Cooper posted: “This has to be one of the greatest A-League Grand Finals ever played. Any other opinion is wrong. Add it to the history books.”

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Vince Rugari wrote: “Some effort to clear the pitch as quickly as they have. That was the most well-natured and polite invasion you’ll ever see lol. Very CCM. What a club. What a moment.”

Socceroos legend Robbie Slater added: “Best scenes maybe ever in @aleaguemen history! Pitch invasion just brilliant.”

Kommunity TV’s Rob Greenwood tweeted: “A community-based club on a tight budget has just delivered the greatest season in #ALeague history. If ever we needed a shining light in testing times for the domestic competition, @CCMariners are it (again). Amazing scenes & a proper football atmosphere in Gosford.”

Football journalist David Moore said: “That’s gotta be the happiest pitch invasion ever. Just pure joy. Soak it up @CCMariners fans.”

Journalist Robert Smith said: “#Mariners crown an unbelievable season coming from behind to down #Victory 3-1 and win back to back #ALeague titles and a season treble of premiership, continental cup and grand final wins. euphoria for #Mariners, crushing for #Victory.”

Another fan commented: “Awesome Grand Final, phenomenal season from the Mariners. Full pitch invasion topped it off. What a night.”

A-League Men Grand Final - Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Victory
Mariners fans were losing their minds. Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
A-League Men Grand Final - Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Victory
18yo Miguel Di Pizio scored the match winner. Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Instrumental in both Mariners goals was Socceroo midfielder Josh Nisbet, who may be diminutive in stature but is simply massive in heart and talent.

Once the Mariners went behind, he drove his side on like no other to help set-up both goals and add a Championship Medal to his Johnny Warren Medal for best player of the season.

The defeat for the Victory continues one of the more stunning droughts in Australian sport, that of manager Tony Popovic and his now five Grand Final losses across spells with Western Sydney, Perth and now Melbourne.

His credentials as a manager are undoubted but it’s a heartbreaking hurdle that he simply cannot get past.

It is one he and the Victory faithful thought he had finally evaded though after Geria’s second half strike opened the scoring.

The 31-year-old Socceroo was set-up nicely by some tricky interplay from Daniel Arzani and Jordi Valadon who teed Geria up on the edge of the area to sidefoot a stunning strike home into the top left-hand corner to send the several thousand travelling Victory fans into ecstasy.

That only served to spark the Mariners out of their malaise and into history making action.

With Nisbet and his midfield compadrade Max Balard at the heart of every foray forward they finally broke a resolute Victory defence late in normal time and seemingly driven on by an entire city, went on with it to deliver a second successive championship for the Central Coast Mariners, third trophy for the season and third title in their now glittering history.