Perserverence has paid off for Western NSW Mariners FC's under-14 boys' outfit, who have made their way through to a grand final.
The Mariners are preparing for a meeting against Camden Tigers FC at Regents Park this Saturday as the Western boys look to put the disappointment of last year's finals series behind them.
The Mariners suffered a shock first round exit from the 2018 finals series but returned determined to make amends in a new National Premier Leagues 2 Youth season.
The boys fought their way to an impressive record of 19 wins, two draws and four losses from the regular season and followed that up with an impressive run through the finals.
Mariners saw off Hawkesbury FC convincingly in a 4-nil win before booking a place in the grand final with a gritty, 1-nil success over Parramatta FC in testing Fraser Park conditions.
Mariners coach Scott Mutton has been proud of the way his juniors have sought improvement through the season.
"They're developing nicely. It's been a two year thing with this team and they were a bit unlucky in the semis last year so I'm really happy for them," he said.
"We lost Aswin Gurung this year, from Dubbo, and he developed into probably the best player in the competition before he moved to Newcastle. He was the leading goal scorer last year as well.
"We had to step up and we did. The depth of the team has improved and they're becoming more competitive. That competitive mindset has got them playing some great football.
"It's important that youth players play great football and not just get results. You need to have them doing both to ensure they're developing."
Camden present a big challenge for the Mariners.
Not only do the Tigers go into the grand final as the defending under-13 champions but they also got the better of the Mariners 2-1 in their match at Mudgee earlier this season.
However, form is definitely something on the Mariners' side.
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The team are on a seven-game winning streak and haven't allowed a single goal across that stretch.
Mutton believes the win against Parramatta was the ideal test the team needed for the decider.
"It wasn't easy for them and the conditions suited Parramatta more than us. It was a good lesson for them playing in those conditions," he said.
"They're going in with great form and they've been training really well. I just want them to go in there with a positive frame of mind.
"Camden beat us 2-1 during the year and they're a big, physical, direct team. We'll be looking to out-play them football wise but also looking to compete with them in the physical stakes."
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