Blacktown City and National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s legend Matthew Lewis says he may have the missed chance to make a career of football, but he wouldn’t change a thing.

It’s an all too familiar story for many aspiring professional footballers.

After dedicating the early part of their life to the game trying to make it to the top, many fall just short.

They’re left to pick up the pieces and find a different path.

After bursting onto the scene as a teenager for Blacktown City’s first-grade team in 2008, Lewis got a move to A-League Men’s side Central Coast Mariners in their academy set-up. It was a big moment getting his shot at the big time coming straight from school, eventually earning a two-year deal in the first team.

During his time at the ALM giants, he brushed shoulders with some icons of the Australian game including current Socceroos coach Graham Arnold.

“I had a year in the youth squad, then I had a couple of years in the first team,” Lewis explained.

“It was actually the first year when they brought in the National Youth League.

“It was unreal being involved in that youth league set up and you still got to train with the first team.”

As his contract at the Mariners came to an end, limited game time meant Lewis’ aspirations of a professional career faded. It was a tough pill to swallow for him as he faced the daunting task of starting again.

Having spent hours upon hours on the football pitch in his adolescence determined to make it, he didn’t have a fall back if things didn’t work out.

“It sucks,” Lewis admitted.

“It kills you a bit inside because of the unknown of what you’re going to do next.

“Life was in a bit of a limbo; my whole plan had gone out the door.

“That was the only plan I had really. I didn’t go to a sports school to try and become a doctor.”

He tried his hand at university and TAFE, however, current Blacktown City coach Mark Crittenden gave Lewis a lifeline. Crittenden was the superintendent of Cumberland Golf Club at the time and offered Lewis an apprenticeship as a greenkeeper – a career he has stuck with.

Lewis credited Crittenden for the role he’s played in his life with plenty of happiness flowing from that job opportunity.

“I’ve been very close with Critto for a long time,” he said.

“I owe a lot to Critto in that sense, he offered me a job. I met my wife through that job.

“He set me up for what I’m doing now so I’m very lucky to have had him around.”

During this time, Lewis moved his football back to Blacktown City where he’s now played his part in the club becoming one of the most successful in the NPL NSW Men’s. In 2020, he broke the record for the most appearances made for the club while claiming numerous NSW top-flight titles over the years as well.

He said though, that his proudest moment was lifting the trophy in last season’s NPL NSW Men’s Championship decider at CommBank Stadium, which was his first time as captain.

After not playing much throughout last year, Lewis was considering calling it a day heading into 2023 but decided to stick around for another campaign.

Reflecting on his experiences now at 32 years old, he said that if it weren’t for not making it as a footballer, he may not have had some of the joys of the life he’s had.

Lewis explained that there are many players who also face a similar fate, losing their professional contract, needing to start their career again from zero. He emphasised that there will always be other opportunities.

“It’s never the be-all and end-all. If you don’t make it in one thing, there’s always going to be another door that opens,” Lewis said.

“I wouldn’t change a thing.

“I can’t complain in any way. I’m super proud of what I’ve done, but also super proud of what the team’s done over the years.

“I definitely don’t have regrets in life, I’ve gone on to do other things. I got married and had kids and I probably wouldn’t have done those things.”

Lewis remains confident his team can still compete for the premiership this campaign, facing Western Sydney Wanderers in round 17.

Feature by Timothy Gibson, on Twitter @Timg123_

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