Kristy Collingridge is impressed with the young Western NSW Mariners FC players

GRANDMA is excited, well at least Kristy Collingridge is.

As one of the oldest – she turns 27 next Wednesday – and most experienced members of the Western NSW Mariners FC first grade squad, Collingridge has affectionately been dubbed ‘grandma’ by her younger team-mates.

And it is those younger team-mates who have impressed and surprised Collingridge in this year’s Football NSW State League Women’s competition.

With a bulk of the season 2016 squad not returning, Mariners coach Jason Payne had a new-look, less experienced group of players to work with this year.

HAPPY: Experienced Mariner Kristy Collingridge (right) has been impressed by her younger team-mates this season. Photo: PHIL BLATCH

HAPPY: Experienced Mariner Kristy Collingridge (right) has been impressed by her younger team-mates this season. Photo: PHIL BLATCH

That group currently finds themselves sitting third on the competition ladder.

“I was a bit unsure how things would go at the start of the year because we had lost a lot of players from last year’s squad, at least half to three-quarters, and they were good players too,” Collingridge said.

“But the girls have just blown me away, it’s unreal to see what they’ve done. The young girls have really stepped up, I think I’m going to have to step up or grandma might be on the sideline.”

Collingridge first linked with the Mariners in 2010, a time when the structure of women’s football in NSW was much different. Instead of there being enough teams to have a three-tiered structure, clubs battled it out in a single league.

“When I first started we had a very competitive squad, but it was only the one league, not three. So while we had a very strong squad, the competition was a much higher level, you were playing against Matildas in the off-season,” Collingridge said.

“I had two years off due to injury, I did the ligaments in both sides of both ankles so I had 2013 and 14 off, and when I came back to play the league had been split into three leagues.”

Since the restructure the Mariners have enjoyed good success, spending time on top of the ladder and being a regular in the the finals.

This season the Mariners again have the potential to push for the premiership, with only last year’s grand finalists SD Raiders and APIA Leichhardt Tigers boasting better records.

On Sunday the Mariners have the chance to move ahead of SD if they can beat Parramatta FC at Orange’s Jack Brabham Park.

Parramatta has just one competition point – coming from a surprise draw against SD – and have managed to find the back of the net just twice.

Mariners won the last meeting between the pair 8-0, and Collingridge said that gives the side confidence.

“It’s nice to go into a game knowing you can do it, we’ve done it before. But every game is a new game and you have to go into it ready to attack,” she said.

Kick-off on Sunday is at 3pm.