Central Coast started life in the A-League as the "little club that could" with a reputation of defying expectation, but since they last lifted a trophy in 2013, the Mariners had a run more akin to chumps than champs.
Four wooden spoons in the last five years, an owner more intent on off-loading than investing, and a sideshow stint from sprint king Usain Bolt had the Gosford faithful wondering just where their club was headed.
Enter Alen Stajcic. The sixth new manager in six years arrived fresh off his own professional saga after being sacked from Football Federation Australia -- it appeared the former Matildas coach was on a hiding to nothing.
With one win in the first 21 matches before his arrival and a grim financial outlook, it would be a Herculean task to turn the tide.
Ironically, Stajcic says that working with depleted resources was a situation he spent most of his career preparing for and declared that the keys to the recent run of success have no monetary value.
"Twenty years in women's football was a good preparation, dealing with not much and not many people giving you respect, so I personally had a good grounding," Stajcic told ESPN.
"For the club it's always tough, everything we have to do we have to ensure that it's efficient, we have to ensure that we get decisions right and the things that have made us successful are not the things that cost money."
After a brief stint as surprise league leaders, the Mariners have returned to finals football for the first time since 2014 off the back of the Stajcic's leadership, but also the likes of Oli Bozanic and Matt Simon as crucial to the side's success.
"Ruon [Tongyik] in the Socceroos, we've at least got two genuine opportunities of Olympians in the next month. To think of what the club had two or three years ago which was basically nothing, to all of that plus a massive European transfer as well on top of that, they are just massive achievements for us as a group," he said.
A contract with VfB Stuttgart is a just reward for Kuol who proved to be one of the A-League's brightest young stars after being plucked from the Mariners Academy to take his place in the senior team this season.
The European move is a "life-changing" prospect for the 19-year-old from a South Sudanese family of refugees who began his Australian football journey with Goulburn Valley Suns in regional Victoria and, after being passed over by all three Melbourne based A-League clubs, was offered a place in the scholarship program on the Central Coast.
Primarily deployed as a super-sub with the Mariners this season, Kuol has scored seven goals and is now a cult hero in Gosford, but Stajcic says this is only the beginning and predicts a big future for the talented teen.
"[Kuol] has only been playing elite football for probably two or three years now, barely that, so he's still very raw but he's just got an amazing x-factor," Stajcic said.
"He doesn't fear contact and opportunities in and around the box and really has that little bit of ego and charisma to go with being a striker as well."
While Kuol's impending move to the Bundesliga is a real feather in the cap for the cash-strapped club, Stajcic says that it is his standout central defensive combination that has propelled the Mariners into the final.
"Obviously Brisbane have got a good back three as well, but Kye and Ruon have just stood up -- two young centre-backs just 22 and 24 years old to lead an A-League line -- last year we conceded 55 goals and this year was under 30 so just shows how much they've grown."
Despite a 3-0 head-to-head record over Macarthur FC in the regular season, the former W-League Coach of the Year is pragmatic about what lies in store when his side face the A-League debutants in Gosford on Saturday. Having seen enough finals football in his time to know the form guide counts for naught, he is however, overwhelmingly positive about the community support.
"I checked up on the ticket sales yesterday and they were flying to be honest, so you know hopefully we get a massive crowd and if we get up towards 12k-15k and even more, it's going to be a great day out for everyone," he said.
"A great day for football, you know it almost encapsulates the reason we need regional teams in our competition -- it's the lifeblood of the league and capital cities are all well and good and where the majority of the resources are but for football to really reach its potential we need it strong in all the regional areas and hopefully this Saturday is a good account of why we need it."
A win on the weekend would see the Mariners edge one step closer to a trophy they haven't touched since 2013 and would further enhance the aura around their coach.
The success of the season will undoubtedly see other opportunities open up for the 47-year-old and there's certainly plenty of suitors in the market with Mark Rudan parting ways with Western United, a vacancy at the Newcastle Jets with the departure of Craig Deans and mounting pressure on Carl Robinson at Western Sydney Wanderers.
However, Stajcic refused to entertain discussion on whether he would consider jumping on the coaching merry-go-round.
"I really don't know what's going to happen after and I don't really care at the moment," he said. "All I'm focused on is us winning on Saturday and doing everything we can to prepare the team and give us the best opportunity and after that, if we win that, the focus will be on Sydney FC so anything beyond that I haven't really given any thought to."