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  • Writer's pictureAntonis Pagonis

How both of South Australia's Federation Cup finalists are winners

South Australian State League One leaders Modbury Jets take on the all-conquering NPL SA champions Adelaide City in the 2022 Federation Cup Final this weekend. Regardless of the result, both sides can count as winners benefiting from the Australia Cup Round of 32 for different reasons.

Adelaide City and the Modbury Jets are fighting for silverware, but regardless of the winner, the national stage awaits both sides. (Image: Adam Butler/@8zerokms).

Another arduous South Australian Federation Cup campaign will conclude at the State Centre for Football this Saturday. This time, NPL SA Champions Adelaide City will be challenged by State League One leaders Modbury Jets. It's an anomaly of a matchup, with the competition's climax usually contested between two top division sides.

Adelaide City finds itself in the position it was in a year ago, reaching the final once again. The last final did not fall City's way. Despite a strong run, even taking the lead on the day, Adelaide Olympic won the ultimate prize. Their goalkeeper Lewis Moss made several vital saves to keep his side in the match.

A frustrated Nicholas Bucco remonstrates during the 2021 Federation Cup Final. (Image: Adam Butler/@8zerokms).

City was disappointed to lose in 2021, but the club used that defeat to springboard to bigger and better things. Since that day, the Zebras won their first championship in over a decade. They then took the game to eventual Australia Cup winners Melbourne Victory before coming full circle to reach the Federation Cup Final and Australia Cup Round of 32 again.

The opportunity for redemption is there for Adelaide City, and another piece of silverware would be the goal. But the club's stakeholders would be lying if they didn't admit the national stage, where most believe the club belong, was not what they were looking forward to most.

Despite the players hoping for an away trip or another shot at an A-League Men side, City's home draw against Logan Lightning FC is favourable. It should give Paul Pezos' men a reasonable opportunity to advance to the last 16 of the competition and loom as a matchup that would cause any side headaches.

With the introduction of the National Second Division scheduled for 2023, Adelaide City's dominance comes at a perfect time. As sweet as a Federation Cup victory may be, the Australia Cup is an ideal stage for City to showcase its talents to the nation. Meanwhile, they can also promote the club as a potential destination for players that want a shot at Australia's long-awaited second tier.

While making the Federation Cup Final, the Modbury Jets claimed the title of the first South Australian State League club to reach the main draw of the Australia Cup. But any team, including Adelaide City, a club Modbury states it hates in its winning song, should proceed with caution.

Modbury is in its second year of life as a State League club. After a hot and cold 2021, the Jets are now on fire, with stories of redemption aplenty in a club seeking it.

Hamish McCabe is an obvious threat. He is fresh from winning the 2021 Sergio Melta Medal for his relegated Adelaide Blue Eagles side, awarded to the player judged as the best during an NPL SA season. Hamish and brother Liam did move down to State League One, but not as expected.

Instead of fighting to get Blue Eagles promoted, the McCabe twins jumped ship to fellow State League One side Modbury, ignoring NPL SA offers.

Modbury is sitting high on the State League One summit, playing for silverware, and is on the eve of a huge Australia Cup Round of 32 tie. The brothers have combined for 21 league goals, Hamish the league's top scorer with 15. The McCabes have had their eyebrow-raising offseason move well and truly justified.

Another successful redemption story in the Modbury lineup is winger Cooper Wegener. The youngster joined the Jets after struggling to earn regular game time and confidence in the Adelaide United NPL setup.

Wegener has taken season 2022 by storm, playing with an air of certainty and confidence, leading to him scoring nine league goals. You also can't forget the sublime chip that opened his side's Federation Cup Semi-Final against Vipers FC, just seven seconds into the encounter!

A cup final and the national stage may be more natural to a club like Adelaide City. But stories like the McCabes, Wegener, and Modbury's quest for redemption are what produce the magic of the cup that fans all around the world crave.

Silverware is crucial; there's no argument here. That sentiment is amplified even further when you have a club like Adelaide City trying to create a dynasty while vying for a spot in the imminent National Second Division. Or one like Modbury, trying to re-establish itself as a force in South Australian football.

The two clubs will leave it all on the pitch on Saturday. But regardless of the result, a more significant opportunity awaits long after the final whistle.

Even though the winners of the Australia Cup Round of 32 receive nothing more than a congratulatory banner, competing, let alone winning, a match in the national spotlight is a rare, invaluable opportunity.

Once respected and feared nationwide, Adelaide City is on its way to reclaiming its national image. Wins and impressive performances in the Australia Cup can attract players, fans, and even sponsorship once the club enters the National Second Division.

Meanwhile, although Modbury is not close to City's status, the upcoming matches can be life-changing for the players involved. Elvis Kamsoba and Kenny Athiu can attest that eye-catching performances in the Australia Cup can be rewarded with a stepping stone move to a bigger club.

With Modbury a heavy favourite for promotion, it can potentially re-enter the NPL SA with confidence, knowing it has competed at a high level against Australia's best. Positive appearances can also increase the club's stature, with higher-quality players keen to join an organisation on an upward trajectory.

Regardless of the results of any upcoming cup games, South Australia is about to experience two very different cup journeys, which sum up the essence of the competition. Only one team can claim the ultimate prize. But every game Adelaide City and the Modbury Jets play carries a magnitude that the clubs and their shareholders can bask in and benefit from for a long time in their respective journeys.

For more coverage of the NPL SA, click here to read our interview with Adelaide City star Kur Kur.


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