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  • Writer's pictureAntonis Pagonis

Why Nicholas Bucco and Adelaide City remain as motivated as ever for season 2023

On the eve of the 2023 NPL South Australia season, Adelaide City's back-to-back champion Nicholas Bucco joined the Front Page Football Podcast to preview the upcoming campaign. He discussed why he believes his side will be as ready as ever to deal with the ever-present target on its back.

Nicholas Bucco celebrating his side's 2022 championship triumph over the Adelaide Comets. (Adam Butler/80Kms)

Winning a championship is hard enough; usually, repeating that feat proves even more challenging the following year. Adelaide City managed to accomplish that, and they are gunning for a three-peat. Star Nicholas Bucco and his teammates remain as hungry as ever for success.

Campbelltown City completed the most recent championship three-peat, dominating South Australia from 2018-20. But Bucco insists the motivation is not to match that side’s accomplishments, with the historical standards at Adelaide City providing enough incentive already.

“It’s more about emulating the Adelaide City teams of the past and not worrying about the other clubs. Just being amongst the great teams of our club, because obviously our club is quite successful and just winning one championship isn’t really good enough when you have ex-players, who are friends of mine, that have won five or six,” Bucco said on the podcast.

“I work every day with a colleague, David Paladino, a close friend of mine who won five championships for Adelaide City back in the day, and they won four in a row. I’m not going to try to match four in a row, but I want to at least say to him I’ve won three in a row!”

Adelaide City's historical success provides motivation for its current squad, according to Bucco. (Adam Butler/80Kms)

History keeps the side motivated, but City’s endeavour is driven by its coach and senior players because they have all tasted recent success and want to remain on top. But also because they have been disappointed in the past and want to avoid the unfortunate side of history repeating itself.

During his time as West Adelaide's head coach, Paul Pezos failed to even lead his side back to the Finals Series in 2016 after winning the championship the previous season. Seeing complacency take over his title-winning team, the coach has since ensured that is no longer the case by freshening up and rotating his squad.

In the pursuit of keeping things fresh, Bucco shared that Pezos has recruited former Adelaide Comets head coach Barney Smith as an assistant coach to provide a new voice and perspective to benefit his squad.

Meanwhile, Bucco and captain Matthew Halliday are now back-to-back NPL champions. But they do not let their younger teammates forget about the decade of misery they endured previously, where they failed to win multiple Grand Finals.

“It starts with Pez; he obviously drives that from the top; if anyone is not playing well or doing enough, they won’t be selected, and they won’t be playing,” Bucco shared.

“It is human nature (to get complacent), so as humans, we’ve also got to find a way to get through to each other, and I think the main way is myself and Matt Halliday expressing how we’ve been in situations where we haven’t been able to win and how we’ve been in many cup final losses and Grand Final losses.

"So we explain that you just don’t know when your next one is and how good you’ve got it until you don’t have it anymore. You’ve just got to enjoy it day by day, and I think that is what drives the hunger and the desire.”

The disappointment City has experienced on the big stage, like the 2016 Grand Final, keeps its experienced players motivated to succeed. (Adam Butler/80Kms)

Adelaide City’s championship defence begins at ServiceFM Stadium tomorrow night, where the Black and Whites resume their rivalry with West Adelaide. Hellas have returned to South Australia's top flight for the first time in three seasons.

Despite the two sides being traditional rivals, Bucco is glad to see West Adelaide back on its feet. Recommencing hostilities and celebrating South Australian football is a motivation when the two sides meet in round one.

“It’s been three long years without them (West Adelaide); it’s always great to have them in. Things have changed a little bit from back in the day when I was younger, and I used to go to these games as an avid Adelaide City supporter. Obviously, it’s died down a little bit, but the history is always there, and there are people involved in both clubs that want to really revive it," Bucco said.

“It’s great from the club to pick them as our round one game, which is going to be exciting. With Pez being an ex-West Adelaide player and coach, it adds a bit of spice. It’s their first game back in the NPL against the champions, so it’s going to be awesome; I hope we can put on a good show for our fans and our community."

With the rest of the competition, especially the top four, strengthening in its bid to knock the champions off their perch, Bucco is under no illusion of the challenge his side will face in 2023. But he insists City will expect the battle and be more than up to matching it.

“As the champion team, you’re always the hunted. Even when we weren’t winning, everyone always came to Adelaide City and wanted to beat us to say that they’ve beat us. Nothing changes for us; we go about our business, and hopefully, we win more trophies this year,” he added.

Regardless of their quality, the improvements made throughout the league mean the champions will feel the heat in their quest to retain their crown.

Nicholas Bucco and Adelaide City command an almost perfect record at ServiceFM Stadium, only losing to Adelaide United on penalties in the Australia Cup last year. They will start their first game for 2023 as overwhelming favourites against West Adelaide. But round one is only the start of the marathon Pezos’ side will have to endure to achieve another slice of immortality.

Should any side know how to manage a season successfully while not letting its overwhelming success go to its head, it is Paul Pezos’ Adelaide City. They are coming off the back of defending its initial crown under the head coach with only a single league loss and a clean sweep of South Australia's major trophies.

Click here to listen to the full NPL SA 2023 season preview podcast with Bucco and Kickin' It Local Podcast host Johnny Keko!

For a different type of preview, click here to check out Antonis' deep dive into the best and worst case scenarios for each club heading into the new season.


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