Central Coast Mariners ($21)

The club famous for punching above its weight has finally been dealt a knockout blow. Ever since a maiden title in 2013 it has gone all wrong for the Mariners, losing manager Graham Arnold and a bunch of players who have gone on to bigger and better things abroad. The ship finally sank last season finishing outside the top six for the first time in four years and the sacking of Phil Moss from his post as head coach. Recruitment by new head coach Tony Walmsley will hardly fill the Mariners faithful with confidence the club can get back to challenging for the title.

Club mainstays John Hutchinson and Matt Simon have both departed along with defenders Zac Anderson and Brent Griffiths. Goals were hard to come by for Central Coast last term and have brought in former Irish youth international Roy O’Donovan and Victorian-based English striker Dan Heffernan from Heidelberg United to try and fix that. O’Donovan will be hoping first impressions don’t have a lasting presence on those in Gosford after smashing a penalty into the woodwork on his home debut in the FFA Cup which ultimately ended their run in the competition. Heffernan has been an impressive performer in the NPL Victoria in the past two seasons but the jump from State League to top-flight is a big leap not many have managed to master.

Key man – Fabio Ferreira

The former Adelaide winger is a standout in the Mariners front-third and will have to carry a lot of their attacking burden. A proven A-League talent, Ferreira will need to adapt to a new style of play to be implemented by Walmsley and has the ability to do so. In a squad severely lacking quality and attacking flair, the Portuguese native will be an important cog this season for Central Coast.

One to watch – Jacob Poscoliero

The up-and-coming defender got a taste of first-team action last season and performed admirably. Will most likely start the season in defence replacing Anderson and will have an experienced head in Eddy Bosnar next to him. Will likely have plenty to do in a defence that will be kept busy all year.

Verdict – 10th    

Along with being the worst-kitted team this season with a monstrosity of a palm tree-inspired playing shirt (see below), it looks to be difficult season for the Mariners. Questionable attire aside, Walmsley has struggled to rebuild his new group of players with salary cap constraints, men on long-term deals and an overall lack of money along with a player exchange deal with new sister club Everton failing to materialise.

Brisbane Roar – ($15)

How the once might have fallen. Once the darling of Australian football and the standout of the A-League era with three titles in four seasons, ownership issues have seen the Brisbane Roar fall dramatically down the pecking order into the position they find themselves now.

It was a horror show for Brisbane last season just months after clinching another title. The failure properly replace striker Besart Berisha along with the puzzling decision to part ways with manager Mike Mulvey proved the catalyst of a disappointing season. Even though they managed to sneak into the finals thanks to Perth’s expulsion due to Salary Cap breaches, 2014/15 was a far cry from their championship-winning exploits of seasons past.

Luke Brattan leaving the club amid the ownership mess is a huge loss that they will be felt all season. Jamie MacLaren will have the task Mensur Kurtisi and Andrija Kaluderovic couldn’t manage last season in replacing Berisha and will lead the line this season.

Former Socceroo John Aloisi replaces Frans Thijseen as manager and will have plenty to prove after a less than successful time in charge of Melbourne Heart.  Aloisi’s coaching credentials are yet to be proven after his disastrous Heart stint and will need a fast start at his new club or the pressure will begin to mount early.

Key man – Steven Lustica

Tasked with the role of replacing Brattan, Lustica will need to step up his game and will have a perfect partner-in-crime in Matt McKay. Lustica’s passing game is already of high quality and will be a key part of Brisbane’s engine room.

One to watch – Devante Clut

Touted as a future Socceroo, Youth international Clut has impressed in limited time in the first team and should see more time on the turf at Suncorp Stadium. Can only improve.

Verdict – 9th

Tough call considering the likes of Thomas Brioch and McKay still feature prominently. An aging side with a real lack of depth will see Roar’s demise this year. MacLaren has showed glimpse of his worth in a two-year stint at Perth Glory but hardly looked a first-choice striker. He will have to carry most of the work upfront with not many options below him. History has also proven clubs sever ownership issues have struggled big time on the field, with Newcastle Jets and Gold Coast United prime examples. The longer the problems persist with the Bakrie Group and their ownership will see the issue seep down onto the playing group and onto the field.

Newcastle Jets – ($27)

Not for the first time, a new era has dawned at Newcastle after the disastrous period that has Nathan Tinkler’s ownership. Now FFA-administered, the Jets are coming back from a long way after a finishing last in 2014/15 amid player unrest, poor form and the Tinkler drama. Manager Phil Stubbins was relieved of his duties and replaced by former Fulham assistant coach Scott Miller who has managed to build a handy squad.

Former players Josh Hoffman and Labinot Haliti have returned to the club and experienced A-Leaguers Nigel Boogard and Mateo Poljak joining the Hunter-based club. Andy Breenan has been a star in recent years in the Tasmanian and Victorian State Leagues and will relish the move to the big time. A handy group of internationals are the Jets disposal this season with former Eredivisie man Brazialn Leandro, Serbian striker Miloš Trifunović along with former Wanderer Poljak. Managing to keep Enver Alivodić and Lee Ki-je who both impressed after joining the club mid-season will also greater improve the Jets.

Key Man – Mateo Poljak

The Croatian native has a huge part of Western Sydney’s early A-League success and played in their Asian Champions League win. A rock of a defensive midfielder, Poljak has shown he has what it take sot perform in this league at a high level and will prove a very astute signing for a side that lacked grit and toughness last term.

One to watch – Andy Brennan

There has hardly been a more-hyped player in the state league in recent years than Breenan. The former South Hobart man dominated the Tasmanian League before being poached by heavyweight Victorian side South Melbourne before getting snapped up by the Jets. Has the quality to deal with the jump up level and will be one of the Jets best performers.

Verdict – 8th

The only way is up for the Jets after a disastrous season. A new sense of optimism has entered despite the club being under FFA control. The return of Gold to the playing kit along with a decent offseason recruitment drive will no doubt see the Jets climb up the ladder with notable improvement. They are still off the pace compared to the big boys and will be out of finals contention once more.

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