- By Julia Wade
Budding young footballers – and parents – were surprised and excited by the appearance of a guest who plays at the top level of the sport, at the recent Mangawhai Football Club’s (MFC) end-of-year prizegiving ceremony.
All White mid-fielder Clayton Lewis made a special trip to Mangawhai Domain for the September 8 junior football awards, presenting medals and trophies to the youngest members of the club.
The 20 year old, who has been playing for New Zealand for two years, says returning to a grassroots level of football brought back memories of his early soccer years.
“It’s cool, it’s where I started out playing with my mates,” he says. “Also reminds me of how much my parents did, getting me to practice and games…. good to come and give back.”
Children had a long list of questions to ask the football star, including how many certificates and trophies has he won, who is the most famous player he has competed against and how many ‘hacky balls’ (bouncing a soccer ball on one foot) can he do, to which Lewis’s reply – 700 – brought admiring gasps from the young players.
Coaches, parent helpers and players were all acknowledged in the ceremony by MFC president Dustin Reif, who says it had been a good year for the club.
“We raised $90,000 towards our new clubrooms; $20,000 of that was from the MELA grant (Mangawhai Endowment Lands Account), formed a good relationship with Bream Bay football club and have had many positive comments about our new look and sport format since joining the Northern Football Federation.”
Reif also presented MFC vice president Matt Rowe, with Northern Football Federation’s (NFF) ‘Outstanding Contribution to Football’, an award open to individuals affiliated with clubs from Auckland to Kaitaia, who demonstrate ongoing commitment and dedication towards community football.
Rowe was recognised for being a man ‘of passion and vision’, devoting countless personal hours ensuring MFC became a contender for NFF with grounds to play on as well as beginning the process for funding MFC’s own clubrooms.
“Not only did Matt design our new logo, negotiate a great deal for our new kit and create our new website, he mows and marks out the pitches and coached teams for winter and summer football,” Reif says. “I am not doing justice to the amount of work he does for the club.”
Although humbled and appreciative of the award, Rowe felt it was more symbolic of the collaborative work by all members of MFC, saying “I think it’s a great reflection of the clubs desire to do its best this year to progress.”
MFC’s 17th grade team were also recognized for winning the Northland 17th Grade Championship although the award was bitter-sweet due to the recent and sudden death of a friend and player. A minutes silence was given in respect and remembrance.
[1.] MFC president Dustin Reif, vice president Matt Rowe and All White Clayton Lewis with volunteer coaches Craig Freeman and Bobby Farmer celebrating the end of a successful football season.
[2.] Uniquely designed MFC medals were a special gift for all young players.
[3.] Inspiring the next generation with a flick of his pen.
[4 & 5.] Young football fans take Clayton back to his grassroots beginning.  Cain and Chloe Fallon  Kacy Gillon, Jack Farmer and Mesise Brown.