WITHOUT Orange CYMS captain-coach Michael Sullivan, former Melbourne Storm, Warrington Wolves, South Sydney Rabbitohs, New South Wales and Australian cult hero Matt King might have been lost to the rugby league world.
King struggled to make his mark on the sport after securing a contract with the North Sydney Bears in 2000, before severely damaging his shoulder playing reserve grade for the Cronulla Sharks.
After the injury, King quit rugby league at the ripe old age of 22, claiming disinterest.
King worked as a barman, and a garbage collector before rediscovering his motivation in 2003, and was thrown a lifeline by Storm feeder club, Intrust Super Cup (then known as the Queensland Cup) team Brisbane Norths.
King went on to play 114 NRL games, and 106 English Super League games. He also represented Country Origin three times, NSW nine times and Australia 10 times before retiring in 2013.
"There was a stage where I was living on his lounge in Cronulla, trying to get a gig with the Sharks. This is one chance for me to give something back to him, to repay him"
During his tumultuous time in the Shire, Sullivan acted as King’s support network, including housing the woolly-haired centre.
Now, King will don the green and gold of CYMS in Group 10’s round one, grand final replay local derby, as a way “to repay” Sullivan.
“Sully was really good to me when I was younger,” King explained.
“Before I linked up with Melbourne [Storm] there was a stage where I was living on his lounge in Cronulla, trying to get a gig with the Sharks. This is one chance for me to give something back to him, to repay him.
Affectionately nicknamed ‘Sideshow Bob’ by Melbourne fans, King is expected to slot into the centres for CYMS in round one. Despite his bulging rugby league resume, King is not without reservations. The 33-year-old hasn’t taken to a rugby league field in six months.
“I haven’t made a tackle since last September,” King laughed.
“I hope the body stands up to it. I’m a touch worried about my lack of preparation, I’ve been thinking about it a bit. I’m sure I’ll be right, it’ll be a bit tricky coming in without training with the boys but I’m planning on attacking it the way I did in the NRL.
“Whenever I did something I tried to do it with plenty of enthusiasm, whether it be supporting a player, making a tackle or chasing a kick. I tried to make sure everyone knew I was up for it 100 per cent, and that I was there for the boys.”
Inevitably, King’s presence in an already stellar CYMS line-up will draw a crowd. However, the local derby will be King’s only appearance in green and gold in 2014 due to his commitments as development officer at South Sydney.
“With the boys playing every weekend it is too tough to commit to any more,” he said.
“I’ve got a great opportunity with the Bunnies and that has to take precedence, but I’ll also be going back up to Casino to help out my old club at some stage. It’s a great chance to get back out to the bush and give a bit back.
“ I know how important footy is to the country. That’s why I was so excited to come out and present the [Group 10 premiership] trophy at last year’s grand final. I saw how much it meant to all the boys and to Orange, I’m excited to be a part of that again.”