Over the next few months, sports reporter Jonty Dine is putting the spotlight on our off-field superstars. These people work tirelessly to make sport in our region happen – without trophies or medals to recognise their efforts.
Whether its football for players with physical limitations, those living with intellectual disabilities or up-and-coming superstars, Stu Reid ensures everyone has the opportunity to play the game he loves.
The local football stalwart has been influential in helping the game thrive in the Nelson region and providing a platform for all players, regardless of ability.
Stu has held a number of footballing titles including life member, president, committee member and sponsor coordinator of the Richmond Athletic Football Club.
He also helped start the local walking football league and coaches the Nelson Special Olympics team.
“Over a year ago, kids came to me and asked if I would coach them because there was no Special Olympics footballing programme.”
Stu gladly accepted the offer and along with Holly Barnes, began regular Saturday morning sessions.
“We love it, there is no other team to play against, so we focus on skills and drills. Now and then a game against some of the older lads.”
Stu says it is incredibly satisfying to see the smiles on their faces.
“They just want to have fun and they are an awesome bunch, and we have a great time.”
He says he and the team are working towards their ultimate dream of qualifying for the official Special Olympics.
“A lot of these athletes have already represented Nelson or New Zealand in various sports.”
As well as helping cater to players with intellectual disabilities, Stu, along with fellow football nut Steve Clark, has also helped establish a league for players no longer able to run around a pitch for 90-minutes.
Nelson’s Walking Football League was created in 2019 and now has more than 30 members all aged over 50.
“We have a lot of fun and banter, the social aspect for guys that age bracket is really important, sometimes more fun is having a beer afterwards and having a laugh.”
He has also ensured the survival of the Richmond AFC from the brink of collapse. The club endured a very public downfall following revelations of crimes committed by convicted fraudster Phil Whitley.
“It was an era that nearly ruined our club, it was a challenging time.”
Stu was at the forefront of repairing the relationships with sponsors and club members.
Testament to his efforts was the fact that all sponsors have remained onboard during the uncertain times of Covid-19.
“It was hard rebuilding, but we did rebuild, we didn’t survive in the Mainland league, but we relooked at our priorities.”
Stu has seen a number of quality players come through the club, none bigger than former All White Jeremy Brockie.
Among his highlights was seeing his childhood club topple local powerhouses Nelson Suburbs 2-1 in a Chatham Cup fixture in 2011.
Stu is still kicking a ball around himself in the local Masters League.
“I scored two goals this year which is two more than I’ve scored for a very long time.”
He says he will never play for another club.
“We have great crowds, a great atmosphere, it’s just a nice environment to be on a Saturday afternoon. I don’t know how long I’ll stay on, but I just want to help our region, we have always punched above our weight and have always produced good kids.”