Michael Smith: First WLA life member
Michael Smith, aka Gandalf, has become the first life member of the Waikato Lacrosse Association.
Mike first discovered lacrosse – or maybe lacrosse discovered Mike – just under a decade ago. In the intervening years, he has made a major contribution to boy’s lacrosse in the Waikato, helping with the Boy’s High School League, the Intermediate School League and his local club at Te Awamutu Marist.
Off the back of his new life membership, Mike shares his personal journey with lacrosse in the Waikato over the last decade and highlights the many opportunities that the sport has offered.
“I started playing lacrosse at the age of 50 which is quite late to take up a new sport, let alone one as physical as lacrosse. My daughter, Annabel, started playing for Hamilton Girls High and I was just to be the taxi and the money behind her new sport.
On her social team’s 2nd outing, they found that they didn’t have a goalie, so I was pressed into service and I loved it!
By the end of that season, I was the goalie for four teams, and at the prize-giving I won a prize for “the most surprising player”. I don’t know if that was a good or bad thing!
In my early days, most of the Waikato men would be playing club league in Auckland. So three of us guys would go to the women’s games in Hamilton, putting up goals and chasing balls and have a run around at half-time.
In 2015, I was the Waikato goalie at the New Zealand Nationals in Wellington. We did a road trip to Wellington, left at 6pm and got to the hotel at 2am and our 1st game was at 9am the following morning. Somewhere on the long drive down I was christened “Gandalf” and have been known as that ever since, something I am very proud of! I have been to 5 Nationals as a goalie for Waikato since then.
In 2016, I had the great honour to be the New Zealand goalie for the ANZAC test in Melbourne, Australia, and in 2018 I travelled with the New Zealand team to the FIL World Lacrosse Games in Netanya, Israel where I played in the Masters Tournament.
As I was the only NZ Master in my age group, I played goalie for Israel White and Israel Blue. It was a trip of a lifetime.
As for my time in the Waikato, I have been involved in the youth development of boy’s lacrosse here in Hamilton and the Waikato, helped run an indoor winter high school league which is now into it’s 3rd year, and the summer Intermediate School league for year 7 and 8 boys also in its third year. I am also co-captain of the Te Awamutu Marist Lacrosse Club. which is about to start its 4th season.
To say that lacrosse is a bit physical for me is quite an understatement. Over my years as a goalie I have worn hundreds of bruises and lost numerous toenails, and I have undergone two major surgeries. In 2014 I had to have a knee reconstruction, and this year I had spinal surgery that has left me with a permanent injury.
And finally this year, I was MVP for Marist for the 2018-2019 season. And the greatest of all honours is being made the 1st life member of the Waikato Lacrosse Association.
Looking back at 59, lacrosse has given me so much. I have travelled overseas and around New Zealand, met wonderful people, made lifelong friends. There have been highs and lows but I would not change a second of the journey.”
Michael (Gandalf) Smith