05/03/2024

Modbury Jets SC head coach Maurice Natale on the touchline during his Club's Federation Cup Semi Final victory against Vipers FC. (Image: Adam Butler/80Kms)

The Modbury Jets are having a season to remember, sitting on the cusp of the Federation Cup final against Adelaide City, and the Australia Cup Round of 32.

After two frustrating seasons, the Modbury Jets are having a year to remember.

On the eve of his side’s Federation Cup Final, head coach Maurice Natale spoke exclusively to The Inner Sanctum about the club’s journey the last two seasons and its path moving forward.

Not many coaches would willingly walk into a freshly-relegated club with confidence, but that was exactly what Natale did in 2021.

Even though he is reaping the rewards for his hard work now, he was not always certain about accepting the role. But when he did, he was sure it was the right fit.

“I’ll be honest, I didn’t accept the job straight away, it took a bit of convincing but the Chairman, Jeff McCormack, really impressed me when we met,” Natale told The Inner Sanctum.

“Some of the things he was saying about where he wanted to see the club matched up with my vision, it was a big challenge but I would never take a backwards step, I love a challenge.”

It has not been without heartbreak for Natale and his charges. The 2021 SA State League One Season saw the Jets finish third on the table and fall short a week before the Grand Final that decided the final promotion spot.

“We were distraught, we set ourselves a goal of trying to gain promotion in that first year, we fell short but then we regrouped and looked at why we missed out,” Natale admitted.

Modbury fought valianty but could not overcome West Torrens Birkalla in its fight for promotion in 2021. (Image: Adam Butler/80Kms)

Nearly a year later and the Jets find themselves leading their division, in the Federation Cup Final and as the first South Australian State League club to make it on the National stage of the Round of 32 of the Australia Cup. The key to the turnaround? Belief.

“I think it is crucial that you’ve just got to make the players believe, you have to give them the tools, such as the fitness level they need, the tactical challenges, the standards they’ve got to uphold and things come together,” Natale said.

“Right from pre-season the goal was that every time we take the field we go out to win the game, that’s the mentality we have.”

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Players can be brought in, but a for a squad to challenge for silverware, improvement must also come from within.

Natale sang the praises of 17-year-old Cooper Wegener, who after scoring twice in the league in 2021, currently has nine league goals and counting, to add to opening the scoring in the Federation Cup Semi Final in just seven seconds.

“Cooper has been outstanding. I thought he was such a young player last year at 16, he established himself as a regular and I thought he had an outstanding season last year,” the coach said.

“He is the sort of kid that will take advice, that will work hard, he’ll listen, he’ll improve and he’s got talent. I hope that Adelaide United and other A-League clubs still have their eyes on him because he is definitely a talent for the future.”

The off season’s major acquisitions were of course Hamish and Liam McCabe. The brothers have been a perfect addition to the club, so far combining for 21 goals, Hamish leading all State League One players with 15.

When the brothers exited the relegated Adelaide Blue Eagles at the conclusion of the 2021 NPL SA Season, the general assumption was they would join an NPL club; eyebrows were raised when they were unveiled as Modbury players.

Natale explained that he helped convince the brothers join the project that he himself was persuaded to buy into a year earlier.

“We were honest with them, we spoke about the brand we’d be playing and how it would suit them, their roles within a club that is growing and wants to become competitive in the NPL and they bought into it,” he said.

“I can guarantee you that it isn’t about money in the end, it’s about playing in a club that you can improve, grow, and enjoy yourself; if you don’t have an enjoyment it is probably pointless playing.”

The Modbury Project is going to plan, with players happy playing for each other, leading their league, about to participate in a cup final and the final stages of Australia Cup. (Image: Adam Butler/80Kms)

Players like Wenger and the McCabes have had their decisions to place their development in the hands of Modbury justified, with Natale stating that becoming a “destination club” is part of the club’s vision.

He believes that by participating in the Australia Cup Round of 32 not only will players like Wegener, the McCabes and many others benefit, but the club will as well through a higher status and funds through sponsorship and other avenues.

“[The Australia Cup] puts them [the players] on the national stage, everyone notices games more so than the local league,” he said.

“Once you’re on the that stage there’s scouts out looking, it is televised all around the country, it’s an opportunity. All you need is a good moment; sometimes even one good moment is enough to get noticed.”

While the on-field product being the most promising it has been for years, Natale also reflected on all the exciting off-field developments.

“The club at the moment is undergoing a redevelopment, four new change rooms that are being built, the clubroom is being renovated, it is an exciting time off the field,” he stated.

“Sponsors are coming on board, the council is really showing interest in us, it becomes a financial thing where the club can grow.”

Natale and his squad are on the cusp of writing club history, but the head coach was sure to pay tribute to the stakeholders of Modbury that make these developments on and off the pitch even sweeter.

“You’ve got the loyal people who have been at Modbury for goodness know how long, they haven’t had a lot of success lately,” he said.

“Then you have Jeff McCormack who works his socks off for that club. To see a smile on his face, to see him reap the benefit and rewards of all the hard work he is doing… to see smiles on their faces is probably the greatest reward for me personally. “

Modbury has historically been a yo-yo club in South Australian football, but under the stewardship of Natale and McCormack it has taken massive strides forward.

With the club about to experience a couple of the biggest months in its existence, on and off the field, while leading the race towards promotion, the Modbury Jets may just become the destination NPL level club the coach and the chairman aspire it to be.

Catch the Modbury Jets take on current NPL SA Champions Adelaide City at the State Center for Football on the 16th July in the Federation Cup Final, before they travel to Western Australia to take on Armadale Soccer Club at Alfred Skeet Reserve on the 21st July in an Australia Cup Round of 32 matchup.

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