FEW Country Rugby League products get the chance to give back to a cause that’s given them so much.
So when the opportunity presented itself to Matt King, he took it.
Last Sunday at Wade Park former Melbourne Storm and South Sydney Rabbitohs star King, a bush product from Casino in the state’s northern rivers, went some of the way to repay his debt to rugby league heartland.
King was instrumental in Orange CYMS’ 42-24 derby win over Orange Hawks, signing on to play in the opening Group 10 game of the season in a bid to boost the profile of the sport in the bush.
It’s hard to argue the likeable character wasn’t successful, either.
Setting up three tries and scoring one of his own, all with a huge smile on his face, in the 18-point win, the former New South Wales and Australian representative said getting out and giving back to the bush was “easy”.
“Without a doubt. I’ve got a real passion for country footy and this is easy for me to do,” King said after Sunday’s Wade Park clash, where he hung around to pose for photographs with young fans.
"That’s what it’s all about. He was out here building the profile of the town, of the community. He stopped and said hello to everyone ... he was giving back"
King said it was about time other ex-players also make the trip west to help promote the game in Country Rugby League areas.
“Someone like Andrew Ryan has a real passion for country footy too,” King said.
“The boys who leave the country for the city never forget their roots so it’s those sort of guys we need to target and I think it’s enormous. It’s enormous for CYMS, hopefully they’ll make a bit of extra money through the gate.”
CYMS officials believe King added significantly cause.
Estimating the final crowd figure to be near 3,000 people, green and golds’ president Ray Agland dubbed King “one of nature’s gentlemen”.
“The kids were just in awe of him,” Agland added.
“And that’s what it’s all about. He was out here building the profile of the town, of the community. He stopped and said hello to everyone.
“He was giving back.”
Agland believes more former NRL players should come out to CRL competitions to help promote the game, simply, because “believe it or not the game is struggling out here”.
King says he remembers flocking around the ex-first grade players who ventured to his home town when he was a kid and to now be that footballer being mobbed was something the 33-year-old couldn’t get enough of.
“I remember when I was a young fella and an NRL player would, not necessarily play, but come to the town the town would come alive,” he added.
“I feel really privileged to be in a position where I can do that and I’ll try to do it as much as I can.”
Agland hinted last Sunday mightn’t be the last time we see King in green and gold.
“Possibly not,” he said.
“He’s great mates with Sully and there’s every possibility ... I’ve noticed he’s played a couple of games for his home town as well, I know he’d love to do more of that as well.”