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  • Writer's pictureAntonis Pagonis

Federation Cup Final 2024: Alex Mullen and Campbelltown aim to reclaim trophy glory

Alex Mullen has been a significant part of a Campbelltown City side that has dominated South Australian football for the better part of the last decade. The back-to-back Sergio Melta Medallist spoke to Front Page Football as the Red Devils prepare to take on the Modbury Jets for a trophy that hasn't made its way to Newton for 30 years.

Alex Mullen Campbelltown City Federation Cup Final

Alex Mullen celebrates a goal against MetroStars in 2024. (Image: Ken Carter)


Alex Mullen has been crowned South Australia's best NPL player for consecutive years, but while honoured by the recognition, Campbelltown City's captain is hungry for his side to rediscover their ruthless edge when it comes to silverware.


Three seasons without trophies can hardly be considered a drought. Yet, Campbelltown City has spoiled supporters over the past decade, making success feel almost inevitable, with the club winning two premierships, five championships, and even an NPL National Championship.


While obviously frustrated, Mullen takes solace in the fact that his side has been one of the top performers in their competitions throughout this period.


"Falling in the last hurdles has been frustrating, but I feel the most important thing is that we are always around the mark. A lot of people are quick to forget that the three years before our current run, we won it (the NPL SA Championship) three years running," he told FPF recently.


"It is really important to recognise that we were around the mark then as well, and things did happen for us. That is the beauty of football; sometimes it happens for you, and sometimes it doesn't, so we just have to keep believing, and I am sure the chocolates are coming our way soon."

One trophy that has eluded Mullen and Campbelltown City in their run has been the Federation Cup. In fact, the Red Devils last claimed Cup glory in 1994, beating Salisbury United on the day.


The midfielder shared that it is a new stat for him and the club, but one they would love to correct when they take on the Modbury Jets in the competition's 2024 edition.


"Honestly, I didn't even know that stat until last year after we lost to Metro in extra time. It is a new stat for me and many people at the club; you'd probably call it a 'negative stat', so, of course, we want to win; we want to win everything," he said.


"People always continue to talk about a drought because everyone loves a story. That would be nice to clear up if we win against Modbury."

Campbelltown fell short to the MetroStars in last year's final, and to say it was a rollercoaster would be an understatement.


Coincidentally, the Red Devils celebrated their 60th year of existence with a gala that night, which the players arrived exceptionally late to after their final went to extra time.

It all started well for Michael Matricciani's side when Shogo Yoshikawa opened the scoring within three minutes. A Hamish Gow brace gave MetroStars the lead at half-time before Mullen himself levelled the score.

 

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A tantalising encounter was quickly turned on its head when Yoshikawa was given a red card for a dangerous challenge. Campbelltown City fought admirably to keep the score level before they were sunk by a 119th-minute winner by Ren Nagamatsu.


"It was a really emotionally draining day and night that one, and it is kind of locked in my memory that day," Mullen admitted.


"We lost that final, but we were proud of our effort; we gave it everything, so even though it was a special night when we had that gala after that loss, we still celebrated the night and how we played.

"Yes, it was disappointing, but it is a really important lesson for us heading into this game against Modbury Jets, and making sure that we are disciplined and ready to go."

Front Page Football Alex Mullen Campbelltown City Federation Cup Final

Alex Mullen competes for the ball against fellow Federation Cup finalists Modbury Jets earlier this season. (Image: Ken Carter)


When it comes to the Modbury Jets, Campbelltown's opposition in the 2024 Final, Mullen is highly complimentary of the journey Maurice Natale has taken his side on, which has included promotion to the NPL, and Federation Cup and NPL SA Grand Final appearances.


"To be completely honest, it is one of the most impressive coaching performances I have seen throughout my career at this level," Mullen shared.


"I think what Maurice Natale has done at Modbury is truly remarkable. He has taken a club that has been mid-table in the second division and really selected the right players with the right mentality, motivated them in his style, and really kept it simple.

"You can see it in how they play; it is almost fearless. I have a lot of respect for Modbury Jets and Maurice. He's done wonderful things there, and it is a great story, but I hope that fairytale ends when we play them in the final."


The Federation Cup Final is a special occasion for Alex Mullen. He has another opportunity at a trophy, and his brother, Matt, is part of the opposition. While this wrinkle guarantees a Mullen sibling goes home happy, it provides an interesting subplot to an already exciting matchup.

Front Page Football Alex Mullen Campbelltown City Federation Cup Final Matt Mullen Modbury Jets

Alex Mullen played against his brother Matt (left) earlier this season. (Image: Ken Carer)


"It's a great story. He's my brother but he is also my best friend. We talk almost once or twice a day on the phone, to be honest. It will be nothing different to what happens in the backyard growing up, enemies for the 90-plus minutes that we play against each other, and I am sure the family and the parents will be proud as punch watching us.

"It's been a great journey with my brother over the years, playing the game, and to be completely honest, everything I am now has come from following in his footsteps. I am looking forward to it, and it should be a really good occasion for both clubs."


Campbelltown and Modbury have already faced off once this season. The Red Devils were successful on the day, but Mullen described it as a game of two halves, expecting another intense encounter on Saturday afternoon.


The South Australian Federation Cup Final takes place on Saturday July 6. Later this month, on Tuesday, July 30, Campbelltown City travel to Queensland to take on Moreton City Excelsior in the Australia Cup Round of 32.


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