As Rabbitohs skipper, Greg Inglis, prepares to don the green and gold of Australia this Friday night against New Zealand, former Rabbitoh, Matt King, discusses the worth of the Kangaroos Jersey and what it means to him.
While State of Origin produces some of Rugby League’s finest moments, the dream of every aspiring player continues to be to one day reach the pinnacle of the international game. For King the now 35 year old King, those aspirations were no different; eventually going on to play 10 Tests between 2005 and 2007 while scoring two tries.
“When I was a kid, I got an Australian jumper with a number 13 on the back because I loved Bradley Clyde,” King told Rabbitohs.com.au.
“To think that I then got a proper one – it’s surreal mate. I’ve only ever had four jumpers framed up – my Premiership jumper, my Origin jumper, my Nines jumper and my Australian one. To have that last one means the world.
“To think that on one particular day in Australia, they pick 17 players to represent the country and I was one of them is mind-blowing.
“Ricky Stuart summed it up for me best. He said to our group; ‘the coolest thing you can ever do in Rugby League is win a Premiership, the best footy you’ll ever play is State of Origin, but the best jumper you can have hanging up on your wall is an Australian jumper’.
“I’ve been so blessed to have achieved all of those things.”
And achieve he did. So much so that in 2006, King was selected to play in the ANZAC Test on the wing in what would be Rugby League Immortal, Andrew Johns’, last Test Match.
The enormity of the occasion – and the achievement – dawned on the Casino Cougars product at one particular training run, thanks to a swift back-line shift.
“There was just one training session where it kind of dawned on me – I was hanging out on the wing next to Mark Gasnier, and then the five-eighth on my side was Darren Lockyer,” recalled King.
“Andrew Johns swept back from the other side and it sort of went; Buderus, to Johns, to Lockyer, to Gasnier, and then there’s me out on the edge.
“When I saw that I just couldn’t believe that I was a part of it. These are some of the best players the game has ever seen, and I’m not just hanging out with them, I’m playing with them at the highest level.
“In 50 years’ time, people will still be talking about Andrew Johns and Darren Lockyer – they won’t be talking about Matt King. I was lucky enough to lace up with some of the greats of the game. Johnathan Thurston was on the bench for that game too! To think that he was in that team as well – it’s such a cool thing to remember.”
Now a part of the Club’s coaching staff, the Rabbitohs’ Auckland Nines champion is excited to watch this Friday’s game, and is particularly proud of Club skipper, Inglis, notching up his 35th Test Match for Australia in what is now a highly competitive international Rugby League landscape.
“Test Match footy is starting to heat up because the Kiwis are the best,” said King.
“Beating the Kiwis these days means a lot because they are the benchmark in many ways internationally and that’s great for the game. I guess it comes down to why they call it a ‘Test’ – you’re testing yourself against the best.
“I think for Greggy, to get a win over this Kiwis team this Friday night will be a massive thing for him personally and for the team I reckon.
“He’s done great things wearing the Aussie jumper and I’m sure this week will be just as memorable.”
Inglis will this week line up in the Australian centres alongside Josh Dugan in what will be Coach Mal Meninga’s first game at the helm of the Aussie team.