The special thing about being part of a relatively new competition such as the A-League is that you get to create its history.
The clubs certainly lack tradition by international standards - that's to be expected when the league is only five years old. Some casual observers find it hard to get engaged by teams that feel more like 'franchises' than clubs, and rivalries that at times seem manufactured compared to the world's famous derbies. Many Australians take at least an equal interest in English football, with its infamous characters, its stadia full of history and its clubs founded two centuries past.
History, tradition; these things all take time to build. Club legends, classic fixtures; some of these can only be realised for what they are long after their time, perhaps only after generations have passed and they transform from mere memories to folklore.
But it all has to start somewhere. Later chapters cannot be written in a book that doesn't exist in the first place. In that sense, Lawrie McKinna's contribution to the Central Coast Mariners may not be fully understood or appreciated for years to come.
If history can indeed be likened to a book, then the outgoing Central Coast boss is author, editor and publisher of the Mariners story so far. To overplay his influence on the foundation of the A-League club would be to discount the invaluable contributions of executive chairman Lyall Gorman and others who have been involved either financially or laboriously. But in terms of identity and character, McKinna and Mariners will forever by synonymous after these first five years of the club's existence.
McKinna decided this week to call time on his coaching career - at least for now - to step back into a commercial operations role at the club, leaving Melbourne Victory supremo Ernie Merrick as the only foundation coach still in charge at his A-League club.
McKinna's results have been mixed, particularly in recent times, and his style of play has caused debate since the A-League's inception, but there is no doubting that he will be remembered for his overwhelmingly positive influence. So much more than just another gun-for-hire coach, McKinna has made his mark on the history of the Mariners and the A-League, and his contribution should be celebrated by generations of Mariners fans. Their successes will be possible thanks to the foundations McKinna has played a major role in laying.
After all, McKinna has been hard at work for the Mariners since long before a ball was kicked - in fact, he's been at it since well before the club even existed. He played a central role in the club's bid for A-League status when the FFA was in the process of forming the new national league in 2004.
In the club's formative months, McKinna spent his own time and resources meeting with stakeholders and garnering support for the concept of a Central Coast top flight football club, driving up the freeway from Sydney off his own bat, and effectively acting as the football face of a brand new franchise.
Of course, that bid was successful, etching McKinna's name into the Mariners' - and the A-League's - history books before the club even had supporters.
After successfully selling the bid to key stakeholders and FFA powerbrokers, McKinna's work was only half done. His next task was selling the product of A-League football to a Central Coast public much more inclined towards Rugby League, and one which had never had its own major sporting team.
This is where the affable Scot-turned-naturalised Aussie really proved his worth. Had the Mariners figurehead not been as down-to-earth, genuine, humble and hard-working as the people of the Central Coast, the relationship between club and supporter base may have never got off the ground. It turned out to be a match made in heaven, and McKinna soon became 'Uncle Lawrie' and a genuine member of the Coast community.
On the pitch, McKinna earned himself the inaugural A-League Coach of the Year gong, on the back of a Pre-Season Cup triumph and Grand Final appearance against Sydney FC. He's subsequently collected a Premiership Plate, registered an appearance in the AFC Champions League and made a second Grand Final berth, so his competitive record is hard to question, other than the lack of an elusive Championship.
But potentially more significant than the results McKinna has achieved are the expectations he has established at Gosford. Because Central Coast have formed their supporting culture solely around the McKinna era, their football ideals are aligned to his.
He's a fiercely loyal manager, giving players such as Nick Mrdja, Nigel Boogaard and Matt Simon relative eternities to outlast injuries and form slumps to prove their worth. He's a gracious loser, forever respectful of his opponents, but he will stick up for himself and his players if he feels hard done by. Most importantly, McKinna has demanded full-blooded commitment from his players, and the Central Coast crowds tap into this.
These are the standards by which future managers will be measured by the Mariners' fanbase. The average punter at Bluetongue Stadium might not understand the intricacies of a 4-2-3-1 formation, but they certainly know when their team is having a go. If McKinna's successors fail to get their men giving maximum effort, they will quickly fall out of favour with the locals.
Whether it was his call alone to give up the coaching side of things, or whether there was some pressure from above based on the disappointing results of the past 13 months, it's a testament to McKinna's reputation on the Coast that he was able to leave the dugout on his own terms, and stay on with the club in a role of his choosing.
McKinna was certainly no managerial Messiah - in fact his most ardent backers would admit to their fair share of grumbles about his selections and tactical approach. There was a feeling on the terraces that he had taken the team's football as far as he could in the increasingly sophisticated A-League, and perhaps this notion was reflected inside the club or even inside the man's mind as this resolution was reached.
Regardless, McKinna still commands respect from even his harshest critics, and no one would begrudge the 48-year-old this decidedly civil exit from the coaching spotlight in this modern world where unceremonious sackings are commonplace.
The difference between a club and a franchise is that a club has identity, history and soul. McKinna has helped inject a lot of these things into the Mariners. He's been privileged to build a club in his own identity, and although all things change, it's hard at this moment to imagine the Mariners as anything but McKinna's underdog battlers.
Take a look around at a Central Coast home fixture and you'll notice the abundance of youngsters clad in their yellow and blue gear. These kids might not remember the McKinna years too clearly, but they'll one day be able to tell their children "I was there when it all began".
Wherever the club goes from here, whatever heights it reaches, McKinna's part should be remembered and celebrated. For now, he should be congratulated. Perhaps it will take time, but McKinna will surely go down in Mariners history as its first true club legend.