Matt King in action during the City v Country match at Oakes Oval, Lismore recently.
Matt King in action during the City v Country match at Oakes Oval, Lismore recently.

King to make Origin debut

By STEVE SPINKS

IT even happens to the professionals.

Amid all the excitement and hype of being selected for the NSW State of Origin rugby league side for the first time, Casino's Matt King forgot his boots.

The Melbourne Storm centre was on his way to Tullamarine Airport for a flight to Sydney when he realised he'd made the amateur mistake.

"The main reason for going up to Sydney was to get the media stuff and the team photos out of the way," King laughed.

"So I was put in the backrow and I had to stand there in my joggers."

But it's best to get the mistakes out of the way now rather than in the middle of a packed Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane Wednesday week.

The 24-year-old admitted he had 'butterflies already' even though he's been selected on the wing and not in his regular position of centre.

"No it doesn't worry me at all (being picked out of position)," he said.

"I played out there all last year and I don't find it too difficult to move out one spot.

"I've got one week now to get my wing play back up to where it was last year."

One of the theories behind the selection of King on the wing was that his extra height would help in attacking and defending kicks.

"I took a few interviews today and I thanked Mum and Dad for that (height)," the former Marist Brothers player said.

"So if the selectors picked me over Luke Lewis because of that, then Mum and Dad deserve the praise."

King was the only Storm player selected for the Blues, while two team-mates ? fullback Billy Slater and hooker Cameron Smith ? will start for Queensland.

Selection in the NSW team has capped a meteoric rise for the former St John's College, Woodlawn, student.

He didn't crack a first grade spot until round 24 in 2003.

Not even two seasons down the track and he's climbed into the elite bracket of rugby league stars.

For his immediate family, which is nine strong, it hasn't been an emotional rollercoaster ... more an emotional take-off.

"We're all so excited for him and proud of him," older brother Chris King, of Lennox Head said.

All are keen to head to the old Lang Park in Brisbane to watch their youngest brother's Origin debut.

But King is not the only former Casino boy in the Blues team. Manly lock Ben Kennedy has been named in the starting side for his 11th State of Origin match.

Last season Kennedy only played one Origin due to injury.

But he has been in outstanding form with the resurgent Sea Eagles this season.

King, along with Manly backrower Anthony Watmough, were the only debutants named in the NSW side.

Former Australian and Newcastle backrower, Steve Simpson, was the Blues bolter after he missed initial selection in the NSW 30-man squad named last week.

The Queensland squad provided a number of surprise selections including Billy Slater being preferred at fullback to incumbent Rhys Wesser.

North Queensland winger Ty Williams was the Maroons bolter, while team-mate and halfback Johnathan Thurston got the nod over last season's No7 Scott Prince.

Luckily for King, he was headed back to Melbourne last night after fulfilling his media commitment, before Origin camp resumes in Sydney on Wednesday.

At least he'll be able to get his boots.



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