Vale Fred King: The king of the west

Fred King loved his rugby league, but more so he loved Western Division.

A clever hooker and powerful forward with both Parkes and Forbes throughout the 1960s before going on to become one of the division’s, and bush football’s, most influential administrators, King lived and breathed the game.

King passed away on December 23, 2017, aged 81, surrounded by his children, daughters Louise, Dianne, Therese and son Matthew, after a lengthy battled with both alzheimer’s disease and a failing heart after a period at Gosling Creek Aged Care facility.

Fred’s love for the game was infectious, you only have to bump into his son Matt to work that out.

“He loved it,” Matt said of his father’s passion for rugby league in the area.

“We grew up with footy. I’ve followed it all my life.

“He just loved football. There won’t be many more like Dad. He taught Jock (Colley) everything.”

After growing up on the family property at Binnaway, King went to school at Katoomba’s St Bernard’s College before returning to play with Binnaway in Group 14.

He then moved to Orange to play with Emmco, which is now Hawks, before being lured further west.

Fred won a premiership with Forbes in 1962 as the Magpies’ captain-coach before making the move to rivals Parkes in 1964.

There, he played under Rex Percy in ‘64 before being made captain-coach in 1965, where the club won the minor premiership before a 5-4 loss to Narromine in the preliminary final.

During that period of King’s playing career, twice he was offered roles with Sydney clubs and twice he knocked them back to stay in the bush.

WEST IS BEST: Fred King will be remembered as a progressive administrator at all levels of rugby league in Country Rugby League, but nowhere more than in Western.

WEST IS BEST: Fred King will be remembered as a progressive administrator at all levels of rugby league in Country Rugby League, but nowhere more than in Western.

After representing Group 10, 11 and 14, an ankle injury ended King’s playing days in 1966 but it was off the field Fred made his mark.

In 1967 King was elected Parkes’ president, where he went about assembling a near unstoppable Spacemen side in 1969, only for the outfit to go down to Dubbo CYMS in the decider.

King was the selector for the Western Division side that famously won the Amco Cup in 1974, beating an Auckland side containing nine internationals, the grand final-bound Canterbury, defending premiers Manly on a typically frozen Orange afternoon, and finally, in the decider, knocking off Penrith to complete one of the biggest underdog stories in Australian sport.

He brought then Australian player Ted ‘The Lord’ Goodwin to Parkes in the 1980s, with Goodwin going on to lead the Spacemen to premierships in ‘83 and ‘84.

The 1962 title with Forbes, the luring of Goodwin to Parkes and the Amco Cup triumph, Matt says, are his father’s greatest achievements.

“They’re the three things he was most proud of,” Matt says.

He just loved football. There won’t be many more like Dad.

Matt King on his late father Fred.

“Not many people know Western was flogged in their first game in 1974. Dad picked Paul Dowling, and he didn’t even make the Group 10 team that year, threw him into five-eighth and made him captain.”

Matt says his father’s ability to draw people to Parkes, where most players eventually stayed and made a home, set rugby league aside as “a unique sport in the bush”.

“Derrick Hoe’s a prime example of that. Dad got him from under 23s, he came to town, stayed in the town, business is in the town and put back into Group 11, Dad loved that,” Matt said.

“Ray Maxwell’s the same. People came to stay. (Orange Hawks league tag star) Ella Harris’ dad is another, Dad got Will from Parramatta and he’s never left.”

King also owned race horses, the silks for all of which were the bottle green and white ‘V’ colours of Western. He had over 100 winners in those colours.

A progressive Parkes, Group 11 and Western Division president, King’s leadership off the field paved the way for success everywhere he went.

"Fred was a true inspiration to all administrators and will be sorely missed," Western Rams chairman and Country Rugby League director Peter McDonald said.

"Fred has left the league world in a healthy space.”

In a newspaper clipping from the late 1970s, King is quoted as striving to take Parkes rugby league to “a high plane”, potentially in a state-wide competition.

Only 12 months ago a similar, Western-wide competition was discussed at an administrative level that would have combined Group 10 and 11.