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Last update: October 30, 2006, at 04:21 PM

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The More The Merrier For Mori The Mariner

"When I stop celebrating goals like that, I’ll give the game away," said 36-year-old Damian Mori on his passionate scoring celebration (pictured left) following his two expertly-taken goals against Sydney FC on Friday night. "You’ll find that players who don’t celebrate goals, don’t score too often and the buzz that I get from scoring goals is what playing football is all about."

Anticipation, intelligent positioning and powerful and sharp finishing (with both his feet and head) - it was all there again from Mori in the Central Coast Mariners' 3-1 win over last season's champions. Such qualities have been a trademark of the striker's game in domestic club football since the early 1990s, and it is now 235 goals that the leading domestic goal scorer has to his name in 430 Australian national league appearances - light years ahead of the second placed and retired Rod Brown. His tally of 137 was surpassed by Mori, still in his twenties, way back in March 2000 in the National Soccer League, and the goal scoring feats of the Central Coast Mariners striker are also making a mark in the A-League record books. Of the six players to have scored over 10 goals in the A-League since its inception, Mori is the only one to have played less than 20 games and has the highest goals-to-games ratio with 10 goals in 19 appearances for the Mariners and, last season, Perth Glory.

Six all-time leading A-League goal scorers
PlayerGoalsAppearances
Kevin Muscat1225
Sasho Petrovski1129
Damian Mori1019
Archie Thompson1022
Fernando1023
Ante Milicic1028

One may ask, then, why he has also made the least appearances out of these six players and no space was found for him in any of the A-League squads at the start of both seasons to date. He only joined Perth Glory several rounds into 2005-2006, and then the Mariners on a short-term contract in round six this season. Admittedly, there have been signs in his recent national league campaigns that his consistency is fading somewhat. Mori uncharacteristically failed to capitalise on two excellent chances in his final NSL game, the 2003-2004 Grand Final between Perth and Parramatta Power in Sydney, and his home performances last season were enigmatically subdued, with none of his seven goals for Perth coming at Members Equity Stadium.

Perhaps the long flights from Adelaide - where he is otherwise employed - a day before matches (at most) took their toll. Three of his goals in 2005-2006 came in a hat-trick at his "home" venue in Adelaide, and the other four came in matches on the eastern coast of Australia in cities no more than a two hour flight from Adelaide. Mori, however, failed to score in Perth and Auckland - three and a half and four hours by plane from Adelaide respectively, not to mention the two or three hours of time differences.

The trend has continued with the Mariners this season. Despite earning a penalty, Mori's debut performance for the Central Coast in New Zealand was lacklustre, but he again scored at "home" in Adelaide before his brace in Gosford against Sydney. If traveling distance are indeed such a decisive factor in the performances of the veteran striker, then the Mariners should be relieved when looking ahead to their upcoming fixtures; for his remaining four or five appearances (depending on the recovery of the injured Andre Gumprecht), Mori has another four games on the nearby Australian east coast.

But whatever his current limitations, Mori's steady goal scoring form stands out marvelously in the A-League and not just statistically. On his day, he remains the most natural finisher in country, and it is a delight to watch him provide a masterclass of poaching in Australia. Mori's right-footed finish gave Sydney goal keeper Clint Bolton - such an obstacle to the Mariners in recent match-ups - no chance, while his powerful header to seal the win would not have resulted had he not attacked Stewart Petrie's cross so aggressively. Sydney's Matthew Bingley appeared to have it covered until the last moment, and those of poorer anticipation would not have capitalised on the defender's error in judgement. Fairly simple poaching, but done perfectly. Quite simply, Mori is still putting so many Australian strikers of prime age and higher regard to shame.

"When I lose the rush of scoring it will be time to quit," says Mori on his hunger for goals. "I still get the same feeling whether it's for Adelaide City (his South Australian state league club) or the Mariners. It's what the game's about. I treasure the time left to me in the game – however long or short it may be."

This week saw the arrival of Brazilian superstar Romario in Australia, as he prepares for a four-match guest stint for Adelaide United. The veteran World Cup winner comes to the A-League in his quest to reach 1,000 career goals after more than two decades of scoring. Only his arrival has perhaps taken from Mori the regard of best finisher currently playing in Australia. Like Romario, however, Mori is still setting very much in the process of setting records.

- Shane Davis


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