In August this year FFA controversially shut down the COE with a strategy of having A-League clubs and National Premier League clubs be the source of elite player development.

After a career spanning more than a decade the former Mariner retired in 2014 and for the past two years has been the Technical Director for Central Coast Football and the Soccer 5s Centre in Tuggerah

Heffernan currently holds a B coaching licence and by year’s end will have an A licence and he believes shutting down the COE will give more opportunities for young players on the Coast.

“I’m a big believer in having a bigger pool of players to choose from,” he said.

“By having the Centre of Excellence you only had a select 15 or 20 players in Canberra.

"But now you could have a select 15-20 players in every state and major region. Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney FC have their own academies and you’ve also got the Mariners up here and our academy which is going really strong as well.

“By having different pilot coaching areas or satellite areas for FFA Technical Director Eric Abrahms to coach players there’s obviously going to be more opportunity - with a bigger foundation, the higher we can go.”

Like many Australia footballers, Heffernan was a late bloomer and he feels the benefit of a larger pool of players will mean kids who develop at different ages will not be lost to the game.

“I got cut playing rep football when I was in the under 15-16s,” he said. “It wasn’t because I was a bad player. I just hadn’t grown yet. I wasn’t strong enough and I wasn’t fast enough.

"All the wrong reasons to be cut from a football team.  

“With the Central Coast Football Academy, we’re very aware of that because it happened to me and a lot of players.

“So, by giving more players the opportunity to go through that growth phase and continuing their training and games then obviously, by having a bigger pool of players there’s more opportunity for players as they are not being cut.”

“Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak didn’t play professional football until he was in his 20s and was getting left behind by clubs because he hadn’t grown. But all of a sudden, he’s captain of Crystal Palace and captain of Australia. Luckily for us, he was determined enough to stick with it.”

The Central Coast Football academy is a different entity to the Central Coast Mariners Academy, but Heffernan revealed the two work side-by-side.

“To have the Mariners here, a professional A League team, as something for kids to aspire to on the Coast is great,” he said.

“So, to have a facility like ours and an academy like Central Coast football – it’s fantastic. Because all these kids can play all year round.

“With the facilities on the Coast and the two different academies –there are a few local players coming through and hopefully you will see more of them in the A League soon.”