There’s something about State of Origin that brings out the kid in every Rugby League player – just ask Rabbitohs Auckland Nines hero and Blues legend, Matt King.
It’s an all too familiar occurrence – a junior player sleeping in their playing gear on the eve of a big game out of pure excitement. For King, that excitement bubbled to the surface in 2005 when he was selected for New South Wales for that year’s Game I in Brisbane.
“I remember flying up from Melbourne – I think camp started on a Monday or a Tuesday so I flew up the night before so I could be there first thing in the morning,” recalled King.
“I got into my room, no-one else (from the team) was at the hotel and my bag was sitting there with all my gear in it.
“I took every single bit of gear out of its plastic bag and put it on. I was just checking myself out in the mirror with that Blues emblem on.”
Story: Souths’ Other QLD Rep
Story: Walker Added to Blues Squad
King made his Origin debut on Wednesday May 25th at Suncorp Stadium in front of a crowd of 52,484 on the wing.
The then-Melbourne player was in glittering company in 2005, playing in a star-studded Series line-up that included the likes of Craig Wing, Anthony Minichiello, Trent Barrett and Andrew Johns.
For King, it was a dream-come-true given the high level of importance placed on Origin in the King household.
“Growing up, Origin was everything in our house – it was three nights a year I didn’t have to do homework,” laughed King.
“Luckily my first game up there at Suncorp, my family got the best seats in the house, so every time the camera panned across to Ricky Stuart – our Coach – on the sideline, you could see every single member of my family behind him.
“I was lucky enough to do a couple of good things in that game and they panned to Ricky and my family were up in arms. I knew they were so proud of me in that moment.”
King would finish the 2005 Origin Series with a victory that would later prove to be the last Blues Series win until 2014, grabbing a memorable hat-trick of tries in the deciding Game III.
The proud New South Welshman holds his time as a Blue dear to his heart, and it’s all about the memories – whether he was part of them or not.
“One of my favourite memories is Steve Mortimer in 1985,” said King.
“The way that he hit the deck, exhausted after that first Blues Series victory – it’s one of the great Origin and Rugby League images. You could just see how much it meant to those guys then having never won an Origin Series and finally doing it.
“Then go to 2014, after eight Series losses, seeing Jarryd Hayne running into the crowd with arms stretched out wide. You just get those same chills – makes you proud to be a New South Welshman.”
Rabbitohs skipper Greg Inglis will represent Queensland in Wednesday’s Origin Game II, while Dylan Walker has been called into the Blues squad as a shadow player.”