Blacktown City legend and captain Matthew Lewis will play his final game this weekend at Landen Stadium, calling time on a stellar career in the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s.
The 33-year-old has played all over the place with Blacktown in his record of 376 games, and he’s created no shortage of special moments.
He’s one of the most successful players to ever grace NSW competitions having won three NPL NSW Men’s championships, one premiership, and a national championship.
In Lewis’s unique career, he made his first-grade debut for Blacktown in 2008 at 17 years old before a two-year stint at A-Leagues side Central Coast Mariners. He then returned to City, where he embarked on his journey of success.
He thought last season’s grand-final victory would be the perfect time to call it a day, but his teammates talked him into sticking around for another year.
“I knew my position in the team wasn’t guaranteed, so I knew I wasn’t going to be playing a heap of football,” Lewis said.
Lewis wasn’t having a poetic conclusion to his career though, as Blacktown’s 2023 looked like a nightmare early on. The team were battered by injuries and suspensions, which saw the NPL NSW Men’s giants slump to the middle of the table by early June.
However, a miraculous late-season turnaround looked to have put the side in with a chance of claiming a title for the ages – a fitting way for Lewis to go out.
That dream was dashed after conceding a 92nd-minute equaliser against St George City in round 27.
Lewis said he is still at peace with finishing his career the way he has.
“It’s been a really positive end to the year, everyone’s buzzing at training. It’s a really positive place to be compared to what it was at the start of the season,” Lewis said.
“I don’t feel like we really deserved it [the premiership] from how we were at the start of the season.
“I think if there were finals, we probably would have gone all the way.”
Blacktown City and Lewis will always be remembered concertedly.
He’s been at the club since he was 10 years old, and the club’s Player of the Year award has been named the ‘Matty Lewis Medal’. He’s trained and played for over a decade with many of the players he leaves behind.
His best memories range from causing upsets in the Australia Cup to his long list of NSW triumphs, chiefly lifting the championship as captain in 2022.
Further, for Blacktown coach Mark Crittenden, it will be the first-ever time since taking the job in 2011, he won’t have Lewis in his squad for the upcoming campaign.
Lewis noted that he had a big adjustment ahead of him as he stepped away from the Blacktown team.
“They are like family. Everyone there I’ve known for so many years. That’s why it’s going to hurt,” Lewis said.
“The main thing I’ll miss is the changing room.
“Even the boys that have left our club have said the best thing about being at Blacktown is the changing room.
“The banter that goes on, the togetherness that everyone’s got.”
The club lost a long-serving part of their ‘family’ earlier this year following the death of Graham Crawhall. Lewis and many others at the club didn’t know a Blacktown City before ‘GC’, with the Football NSW Charles Valentine Medallist an ever-present throughout the club’s success.
That was an incredibly sad time according to Lewis and ranks as his worst moment at the club.
“He was everyone’s go-to man for anything, as he’d always help as best as he could,” Lewis explained.
“That was a rough couple of weeks where football almost felt a bit irrelevant.”
For now, Sunday’s fixture against Wollongong Wolves is on the horizon for Lewis.
His final time stepping across that white line – running down that wing as a Blacktown City player.
His final touches of the football at the place where he’s achieved so much.
And, that final whistle.
He said he hasn’t given much thought to any of that ahead Sunday’s match. Rather, he looks forward to a future featuring more time with his wife and children.
Blacktown City host Wollongong Wolves at 3:00 pm on Sunday 20th of August at Landen Stadium.
Feature by Timothy Gibson, on Twitter @Timg123_