Blacktown City skipper and stalwart Matt Lewis is poised to bring up the remarkable feat of 300 competitive matches for the club when they host Sutherland Sharks at Lily Holmes Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The 29-year-old is Blacktown through and through.
He played his grassroots football at Parklea Soccer Club before joining City at the age of ten.
Apart from a brief stint in the A-League with Central Coast Mariners, Blacktown is the only club that Lewis has represented and one “he wouldn’t change for the world.”
The left-footed midfielder earned his first-grade debut at the age of 17 on the 27th January 2008, a game against APIA Leichhardt at Sydney Olympic Park that he recalls vividly.
“I came off the bench for literally about five minutes and someone absolutely smashed me with a two-footed challenge,” he recounted.
“It put me out for six weeks due to injury. After that injury I’ve touchwood been pretty lucky but that was a good welcome to first grade.”
Lewis’ 100th game took place in a local affair with Blacktown Spartans on 18th May 2013 and he brought up the double-century on the 19th June 2016 in a home fixture against Parramatta FC.
His immense consistency has been down to several factors including his technical ability to play a number of positions and a fortunate injury record to date.
Lewis once put together a remarkable run of playing 91 consecutive league and cup games.
Not many can claim that they reached game number 300 with the single club and even fewer boast this feat before they reach the age of 30.
But Lewis has deservedly earned the honour through his willingness and capability to assist the team no matter what the assigned role.
“I’ve don’t think there’s been a year where I’ve stayed in the one position,” he said.
“I think probably the only position I haven’t played is right-back.
“Especially as I’ve gotten older I’ve slowly made my way back, but I’m not a very different player now to when I was younger.
“I’ve been lucky that Critto always felt comfortable putting me in different positions which obviously helps your chances of starting every week.”
There has been no shortage of change during Lewis’ time at the Blacktown.
Back when he was a fresh-faced teenager, Blacktown’s grass-turfed home ground was known as Gabbie Stadium, the club boasted the ‘Demons’ brand and their head coach was not yet long-serving boss Mark Crittenden, but rather the great Ken Schembri.
Results-wise Blacktown were not yet the juggernaut they have established in recent times: in 2008 they finished in 12th.
“When I first started we were battling massively,” Lewis recalled.
“It was tough times around then and I was given my debut as the club started playing some of the younger boys. At that time I was just happy to be playing.
“I think since then we have come a long way and the owners and board are doing their best for the club. We’re just going onwards and upwards.”
In his 299 matches so far Lewis has registered a total of 26 goals for the club.
That allows him to see the humour in the fact that after two rounds of the 2020 campaign, the Blacktown captain currently leads the standings for the golden boot race.
“It’s been a bit of a laugh amongst the boys,” Lewis said.
“I don’t score goals let’s be honest, and honestly can’t remember the last goal I scored from open play.
“I’m happy to step up and take penalties but it’s been quite funny because the boys are stirring me up and saying I could win the golden boot this year.
“I obviously took a screenshot of the standings before Sunday’s game because I thought that will never ever happen again!”
While the golden boot may have never been on his radar, Lewis has won his fair share of silverware with Blacktown.
The period from 2014 to 2017 where the club won the Premiership, Championship, National Premier League and toppled A-League opposition on their way to the FFA Cup quarter finals, is one that Lewis “will never forget.”
He is also confident the club have assembled a talented and united squad capable of challenging for the title again in 2020.
“Even after losing a few players over the last couple of years at Blacktown the aim never changes,” Lewis claimed.
“No one’s ever just happy to come third or fourth, we want to aim high and realistically I think we can win it.
“When we won it in 2014 we had a fairly young team then and a lot of those boys have gone on to the A-League or doing very well elsewhere.
“We have a really good young team this year and I think they’ve all got a bright future ahead of them so like nothing says we can’t go on and win it.”
Upon reaching game number 300, Lewis would like to thank his inspirational coaches Mark Crittenden and Kenny Schembri as well as Luke Rudenberg, who he views as a role-model for him to emulate as captain.
He would also like to extend his gratitude to all of his teammates for the culture they have built and success they helped him enjoy.
Lewis is also thankful for the everlasting commitment of his parents who still attend all of his games, as well as his wife Eliza for putting up with him after every disappointing session or result.
Lewis and Mark Crittenden have enjoyed a close relationship over the years and the Blacktown coach praised his captain ahead of his milestone day.
“You can’t really express how good Matt has been for this football club,” Crittenden said.
“He is the ultimate professional, he brings the boys together, and always has been a winner.
“He knows the Blacktown City culture and is very big on trying to make sure all the young boys that come through are fully aware of that.
“At the end of the day, it’s been a pleasure as a football coach, a work colleague and a mate.
“I have nothing but the utmost respect for Matty and I hope things go really well for him on Sunday.”
Blacktown City will be proudly honouring Lewis prior to kick off in their round 3 clash against the Sutherland Sharks with local fans encouraged to attend what will be an eventful day for the proud club man.
By Chris Curulli (Twitter handle @ChrisCurulli)