The contrast between Manly United’s early struggles and subsequent renaissance this season is truly impressive, yet tenacious midfielder Sasa Macura expects even greater things to come.
The reigning championship winners were slow out of the blocks in 2018 as they failed to register a single point from their opening three matches.
Paul Dee’s side have long since forgotten their early season woes with an upturn in form seeing them undefeated in seven.
Not one for resting on his laurels, Macura demands even more from future results as his side seek to do a better job of seeing out matches from winning positions.
“We knew that losing the first three in a row simply wasn’t us,” said Macura.
“We weren’t really playing badly.
“We just needed to harden up in a few areas and start doing the things that we are good at – the things that won us the league last year.
“Results then started coming our way, but we have still been conceding in the closing stages of games and not wrapping matches up, which is disappointing.”
Manly’s recent feats place them on the cusp of the top five and a spot in finals football; a destination within which Macura thrives.
The 26-year-old will be licking his lips at the prospect of contesting the finals series once again having played in the last four NPL NSW Men’s Grand Finals.
The Croatian-born midfielder is arguably the competition’s most decorated player in recent years, twice lifting the silverware with Blacktown City (2014, 2016) before repeating the feat with Manly in 2017.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be there repeatedly with Blacktown and last year with Manly as well,” Macura reflected.
“It’s been a good run for me, I’ve won three and lost one from memory.
“It’s definitely a good achievement and one I’m happy with.
“We had a very successful few years at Blacktown and I had a good thing there.
“Last year we did the same with Manly, and I couldn’t do it by myself, it definitely helped having a great group of boys around me as well.”
The success that has followed Macura in recent years is no coincidence with the robust midfielder having spent his formative football years plying his trade in Hungary.
As an ambitious teenager Macura trialled with Serbian club FK Vojvodina before shifting north to sign a professional contract with MTK Budapest in the Hungarian capital.
Over the next four seasons the youngster would develop his game physically and mentally in Hungary’s first and second tier with MTK and Szigetszentmiklósi, where he spent 2013 on loan, before returning as a seasoned player to Australia to sign with Blacktown City the next year.
“I made my debut at 18 in Hungary,” explained Macura.
“I actually went to Serbia initially and was playing in the youth setup of a team over there, and then I went to Hungary with a first-grade team.
“It was very different, very tough over there with a lot of competition and a different style of football – very do or die at times.
“Here in Australia we play with freedom but over there is a battle for survival, every game carries a lot of meaning.
“I think the battle and determination to succeed that comes with it has helped me, not just in football but in my life as well.
“That’s definitely carried on and that’s where I found my aggression on the field and my hunger to win.”
That very hunger to win has certainly served Macura well since his return to Australia, and this weekend he returns to where it all began: Bonnyrigg White Eagles.
“Bonnyrigg will always be close to me,” reminisced Macura.
“They offered me a first-grade contract when I was young and it’s a club very close to my heart.
“There are good people running things there, it’s just unfortunate to see them down the bottom of the table.
“It’s surprising as they’ve been up near the top for such a long time, it’s only a matter of time before they bounce back, so we’ll have to be on our best game this weekend.
“I’m pretty close mates with a few of the boys there and we speak on the regular.
“They have a few injuries that haven’t helped them, but it’s just a matter of time before they start winning games and go back to be the strong club that they are.
“From that point of view, we anticipate that it’s going to be a very tough game on Saturday and we’re going to have to be ready for the battle.”
See if Sasa Macura and Manly United can keep up their momentum when they face Bonnyrigg White Eagles this Saturday. Kick-off 7pm at Bonnyrigg Sports Centre.
– By Michael Shoolman