In KZN10 schoolboy hockey circles and further afield Matt Lewis needs no introduction – let’s find out more.
It’s not a piece of cake being captain of one of arguably the top three or four first teams in SA. Then you’re also primary goalshot go-to man from field play, also the G-Force missile man at penalty corner drag-flick time… and also…
So does all this pressure, this responsibility weigh heavily on young shoulders… the answer suggests BMT is not lacking.
Feature image: Matt Lewis goalbound… prepares to enter the strike zone after advancing across the attacking third.
Photo Terry Lewis
“Hi sir, with these responsibilities comes a lot of pressure to perform and those are the conditions I thrive in and play my best. The main goal of being a striker is to score as many goals as possible and there is no better feeling than scoring goals.”
At a young age Matt has already garnered recognition beyond Clifton and KZN’s school boundaries.
On the Astro (outdoor) front Matt’s accolades include four years Clifton first team (2015-18), three years first team at one of KZN and SA’s top clubs Riverside (2016-18), age-group selection (KZN Coastal U16A 2015/16), (KZN Coastal U18A 2018) and SA U16 2015/16.
But, wait! I hear. Yes, you’ll hear about the 2017 outdoor hockey annus horribilis in due course.
On the indoor hockey courts Matt has been able to transfer his outdoor hockey skills with success – it is not a given that a quality exponent on the turf will also be pretty sharp inside a sports hall.
It is worth noting that in terms of months outdoor hockey dominates the hockey year compared to indoor, but the sports code of sideboards and six-a-side has enjoyed a significant resurgence in the last decade or so – primarily with its popularity amongst the youth at the more prominent hockey schools, from primary to high.
So Matt’s indoor representation looks like this – 1st Clifton college 2015-18, Pro Series Indoor (Psi) Panthers (one of the Durban franchises) 2014 to 2016 and SA All Stars U17 selection in 2017.
Returning to matters Matt and Clifton firsts on the Astro, Matt says: “I have been playing for the last 4 years and have enjoyed every bit of it. I am on 80+ games so far, having made my debut in 2015. In the earlier years I didn’t have the responsibilities that I have in current times . My game has developed a lot since then and the transformation from individual hockey into playing 1-touch hockey became a reality in 2015. I play a completely different game now, than what I did in 2015 and I’m so grateful for the opportunity that I was given then.”
As to what qualities of leadership does Matt aspire to when captaining the Clifton firsts, he says, without hesitation, “Passion, determination and lead by my actions are important to me.”
Matt is content, at this point, with the first team season: “Yes I do think we have had a good season so far.”
Played 20 Won 17 Drew 3.
“We still have – Helpmekaar and St David’s this coming weekend, we then have Michaelhouse on 9 June and Kearsney 13 June.
“We have produced quality results against big hockey schools.”
A clear ambition of Matt and his first team is to stay focused on their remaining school matches in order to complete the season the way they intend to, but what lies ahead in terms of KZN Coastal U18A?
“Winning gold at IPT (U18 Interprovincial Hockey Nationals tournament hosted by Maritzburg College in the first week of July) is another goal on my mind as I feel we as KZN Coastal have a very strong team to do so.”
The genesis of Matt’s hockey, where did what is burgeoning into something special begin?
“I started playing when I was 6 years old at my current hockey club Riverside HC.
“Michael Baker was my first coach who made a special difference. Having missed out on making the U12A KZN Coastal team, he gave me a call up to the U13C team – we went on to win gold at the IPT and it changed me as a player completely.”
Another gamechanger for matters hockey al la Matt Lewis was Calvin “Chicken” Price: He was my coach when I made my debut for Clifton in grade 9 and backed me all the way, he mentored me and gave me the opportunity I am ever so grateful for.
As to the here and now? “Keegan Pearce. He is my current (head) coach for Clifton College (and the sports code’s director) and has coached me for the last 3 years. He has changed my game to a new level and I can’t thank him enough for it – he is passionate and pushes me to do my best. He knows me the best and expects a lot from me, which pushes me to be a better player.”
One Mark Hopkins is another gamebreaker in the development of Matt Lewis Hockey: “Mr Hopkins is the current SA men’s coach and my club hockey coach, he knows the game like no other – has so much knowledge… He has coached me at a level, and has shown me what it takes to compete at the highest level and I am grateful to learn that at such a young age.”
OK okay Matt, but coaches aren’t the be-all and end-all… There is the not-so small matter of real life outside the white lines of stick and ball.
“As some people know I was out with a knee injury and had to have surgery.”
At this juncture, dear reader, please refer to paragraph 7 … and annus horribilis…
“My friends did not stop believing in me and after a long road to recovery I am back and feeling better than ever. Now to the (most) important people, I cannot thank my parents, brother and sister enough for the support that I received during this tough time. They did everything they could for me during the early parts of my injury and have continued that support to this day.”
In a KZN10 schoolboy hockey career so illustrious already, what to date – in Matt’s unerring eye – has been the most memorable Clifton match… and why…
With the instantaneous Matt Lewis reflex action that turns a goalshot rebound into a Matt Lewis goal, here’s the answer: “Northwood game – it was nice to get a win against them as a lot of the players in their team are my mates. It is also a Durban North derby and the competitive levels are high.”
OK, there’s the obvious attraction of crossing hockey swords with a neighbour, but what about a KZN10 team a little further afield? Once again the unequivocal response – “Maritzburg College – they are a very good team.”
I was privileged to watch the 1-1 draw in what was a Battle Royale on the Red Army’s fortress Pape’s Astro. It was a no-holds-barred Last Man Standing affair played with a fierce, unflinching will and no little skill in which Clifton showed tremendous team grit to force a stalemate in a match that coach Pearce said was not the usual quality Clifton performance.
Says Matt: “College have produced quality results for years and have been regarded as the best team in the country a lot of those years.”
With star striker quality of the Matt Lewis calibre hitting peak, don’t be surprised if the IPT Nationals gold medal goes back to Durban early next month.
“Thank you, sir.”
Here’s Matt Lewis in 20 seconds
Favourite food……. biltong
Actor…… Will Smith
Actress……. Margot Robbie
TV show……. Peaky Blinders
Holiday destination……. Cape Town or Kruger
Board game…… don’t have one
Car……. Jaguar F-Type
So, Lewy in one word……. passionate
Favourite breakfast……. bacon and eggs
3 desert island must-haves……. cellphone, TV and some mates
4 things I can’t live without…….. friends , hockey, biltong and the beach
Favourite quote…….. “The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today” – H. Jackson Brown jnr
If I could attend any sports event…….. Olympic Games
Down time……. relaxing with friends and playing PlayStation
Matt Lewis, clearly much more than just a hockey player.