Mariner Set To Become A Rover

May 16, 2016 by

The flow of Brisbane Strikers to fully professional football clubs continues, with 16-year-old Dauntae Mariner about to join English Football League Championship club Blackburn Rovers.

Mariner, who has been with Strikers since the PlayStation 4 NPL kicked off in 2013, recently trialled with Rovers and so impressed their coaching staff that they offered him a two-year scholarship at their Football Academy.

The young attacker leaves Brisbane next month to take up the offer, which he hopes will eventually lead to a career as a professional footballer.

“I leave on the twentieth of June. I’ll go back to start pre-season there and settle in there. I’m very excited for it,” Mariner said on Saturday.

“I was just glad to get the chance to go over there and trial. I wasn’t expecting to get the offer that I did. To know that I’m going to be over there for two years in one of the best academy environments is unbelievable and I feel incredibly humbled”.

Mariner’s excitement is understandable. A football scholarship with a pedigreed club like Rovers, who compete for attention in the Lancastrian hotbed of football that also supports Liverpool FC, Everton, Manchester United and Manchester City – to name just a few – is the stuff of dreams for many young Australian footballers.

It certainly was for Mariner, who moved to Brisbane with his family from Sydney three years ago nurturing exactly that hope in his heart.

“That was always my end goal – to be a professional footballer – but I never expected (the opportunity) to come around so quickly like it has,” said Mariner.

Mariner earned his chance the hard way, leaving his family behind at the Gold Coast for a trial with Rovers at the back end of this year’s northern hemisphere winter.

He ‘lived in’ at Rovers’ Football Academy complex, rooming with another ‘foreign’ footballer, Canadian Ben Paton, who will again be his roommate when he returns.

“It was very different,” Mariner said. “The football was at a very high tempo and it was a big eye-opener for me.

“I was there for three months. At first it was a big thing for me, being away from my family. I felt a little bit homesick at the start but as I started to adjust to the weather and the living conditions I started to settle in”.

Blackburn in late winter was certainly a world away from sunny, sub-tropical Gold Coast and Brisbane, where he had pursued his football education since the age of twelve with comparatively modest short-term goals.

”Coming from a different state, to where no-one knew who I was, the main goal at the time was to just get into this team and really make an impact, ” Mariner said when asked to remember what he wanted to achieve when he joined Strikers.

Mariner said he learned a lot of his “football fundamentals” as part of the Project 22 program in New South Wales, and then under his coach at The Southport School, former Millwall FC legend Keith Stevens, before arriving at Strikers.

“My parents were really on to me and saying just open your mind up, listen to what all your coaches are saying and really just work hard – and I think that’s what I did a lot of the time,” Mariner said.

Mariner quickly established himself with Strikers as an attacking midfielder and was retained by the club for their Under-14s squad the following year.

It was then that the youngster found himself coached by the Strikers’ renowned tough taskmaster, John Reid and the next quantum leap in his football education took place as Reid saw something special in the boy that he made his captain.

“We already had enough good midfielders and I just thought Dauntae would be the icing on the cake up front,” Reid said.

“On one occasion he scored a quite unbelievable goal at Western Pride on a Wednesday night. In a place he shouldn’t really shoot he’s just pulled this left foot shot out and put the ball into the top corner across the goalkeeper and there was just stunned silence. Nobody could believe what they’d just seen.

“He’s got that sort of factor in a game – that he can produce a goal out of nothing”.

Mariner said that, aside from Stevens, Reid had exerted the greatest influence on him of any coach to date.

“He is very hard – you have to do it like he wants it and it’s a credit to him, because the way I play and how I look at things now is all down to him,’ Mariner said of Reid.

“As a ‘number 9’ he really emphasized to me to get on the ball in space and just to try and stay hidden – and then appear – and make the centre backs look over their shoulders to try and find you”.

Despite his youth, Mariner seems to know exactly what he is about and where he is going. He said that he thought the real strengths of his game at present were his work rate and his hunger for the ball.

But his next observation, about what he needs to improve in his next two years with Blackburn Rovers, was slightly surprising from someone who, off the pitch, is quietly spoken and thoughtful.

“It’s my talking,” he said with a laugh. “I’m not very quiet on the pitch. I’m very loud. Sometimes it gets me into situations that I don’t need to be in.

“I also need to be working on my fundamentals with the ball and just focusing on the basics and making them as sharp as possible”.

Mariner joins Eoin Ashton (West Bromwich Albion), Matthew Green (Sydney FC), and Shelford Dais (Central Coast Mariners) as Brisbane Strikers who have gone on to fully professional clubs within the past year, while his Under-14s teammate Rahmat Akbari is now at the AIS and has already represented his country at age level.

Photo: Dauntae Mariner proudly displays the Brisbane Strikers playing strip he has worn for the past three seasons as he contemplates life with Blackburn Rovers (Photo: Michele Pitman)

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