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Feb 26, 2008

Mariners to appeal Vukovic's ban

Central Coast confirmed they will appeal the "excessive" suspension which is threatening to shatter goalkeeper Danny Vukovic's Olympic dreams.

The Mariners on Tuesday reacted quickly to Football Federation Australia's decision to suspend Vukovic for 15 months, with six months suspended on a probationary basis, for striking referee Mark Shield in the A-League grand final.

The custodian was shown a red card in Sunday night's 1-0 loss to Newcastle after hitting Shield on the arm when a late penalty appeal was turned down.

The Mariners announced their intention to have an appeal heard "as quickly as possible" as Vukovic's hopes of becoming an Olympian remained in the balance.

The FFA were yet to determine whether the ban - set to keep Vukovic out of the A-League until at least November 24 - would carry over to international games.

Vukovic is an Olyroos regular and was certain to earn selection for the Beijing Games.

Mariners chief executive Lyall Gorman said robbing Vukovic of a chance to represent his country would be a "significant penalty."

"It's a hard one to comment on, except to say Danny won't have another opportunity to represent Australia at the Olympics," Gorman said.

Gorman met with the club's legal team Tuesday morning and prepared to present several "new facts" to the FFA they hope can have Vukovic's sentence reduced.

"We believe there is an opportunity to present some facts that the independent tribunal yesterday weren't privy to and we hope those facts will support a reduction in penalty," Gorman said.

He said Vukovic was full of remorse and believed the player's clean record meant he deserved a lesser penalty.

"We can say that Danny deeply regrets his actions and he apologised to the referee immediately after the game verbally and today he has sent a formal written apology to the referee as well as to the referee's manager of the FFA and to the FFA," Gorman said.

"I can say it's sincere. I think you all know Danny's record on and off the field and there's tremendous remorse in his action on the weekend.

"The club is of the view that the severity of the sanction for such a player of his record is excessive, despite the serious nature of the charge."

The appeal should be heard early next week.

Olyroos coach Graham Arnold said the prospect of losing his first-choice keeper for the Olympics was disappointing.

"He's played 14 (qualifying) games, he's been involved with me for two-and-a-half years, he's a senior player, he's a leader and he's a wonderful person to have around the place," Arnold said.

"He's the life and joy of the place and all the other players are down about it, he was in the hotel last night when he got the news, the kid was distraught - he was shattered."

Vukovic will miss the Olyroos' friendly against Mexico in San Francisco on Sunday because of the uncertainty over his international future.

His teammate Sasho Petrovski is also in hot water and facing a disciplinary committee hearing after allegedly using an abusive gesture towards a match official in the heated grand final.

The Mariners issued a formal apology after the FFA launched an investigation into an incident involving players Andre Gumprecht and Tony Vidmar at the Mariners' end-of-year celebrations yesterday.

Gumprecht appeared in a photograph dressed as Adolf Hitler while departing veteran Vidmar was dressed as 'God' with his face blackened.

FFA chief executive Ben Buckley described the players' actions as "stupid" while Jewish groups described the stunt as being in poor taste.

Gorman defended the character of both players, saying they did not mean to cause offence.

"On behalf of the players if any groups were offended by their dress yesterday the club and the players apologise and reiterate that no such offence was intended," he said.

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