Sydney Charles King
- 229Wallaby Number
Sid King was the perfect foil to the great Cyril Towers and together the two formed one of Australia’s greatest ever midfield partnerships. A wonderful all-round centre, King had few peers when it came to defence. One scribe wrote effusively of King’s defensive abilities: ‘Oh, what a magnificent defender! He flies at opponents and flops them like a wharf-labourer with a bag of spuds.’ Towers held that view that ‘on the score of tackling alone he [King] takes second place to no other player known to me in my association with Rugby Union football.’
The famous Stellenbosch University and Springbok coach, A.F. (‘Oubaas Mark’) Markötter advocated that the centre three-quarter pairing should consist of ‘one attacker - one stopper’. The mighty 1937 Springboks featured that formula with Louis Babrow and Jimmy White. However, New South Wales and Australia had arrived at the same formula more than a decade earlier with the combination of King as the ‘stopper’ and Towers as the ‘attacker’. Born and raised in Sydney, King was educated at Sydney Boys’ High School where he played four years in the 1st XV (1921-24), the last as captain, and represented the Combined GPX XV, as a halfback, in 1924.
King also achieved success in cricket and twice represented the All Schools' XI (1923-24). After school he joined the Western Suburbs club and in that first season of senior football was selected on the New South Wales tour of New Zealand. He played in three of the 11 matches, at fly half, inside centre and then fullback, however ‘Tug’ Morrissey was preferred for the one-off Test.
In 1926 New Zealand came to Australia for a six-match tour that included a three match series with New South Wales. King started all three state fixtures and he also came off the bench to play fullback in the hastily arranged fourth fixture. Although he did not know it at the time the 26-20 win in Sydney was his official Test debut after an ARU decision in 1994 elevated 34 New South Wales matches played against international opposition in the 1920-28 period to Test status (the five 1927/28 Waratahs’ internationals were given Test status in 1986).
On the 1927/28 Waratahs grand tour to the northern hemisphere it was opined that King – who played in four of the five internationals, more than any of the other centres - ‘developed into the finest [Australian] centre of the post-war period’. The Welsh Test, King’s first, proved a triumph for the centre and secured his place in the remaining internationals. King had a big hand in the Waratahs’ first try, one which shocked the Welsh. When Alec Ross daringly punted high from just inside Welsh territory, King ran onto the ball, caught it and drew the Welsh winger Dan Jones before offloading to Johnnie Wallace, who scored. In the second half fellow centre Billy Sheehan kicked for Eric Ford, who was well tackled by fullback Tommy Rees.
As he fell, Ford flicked the ball up to King who sprinted across beside the goal posts to put the game firmly out of the home side’s reach. King went to enjoy two years of undefeated Test rugby as Australia swept the All Blacks in 1929 and a year later defeated the British Lions on their way home from a 1-3 series loss in New Zealand. After a brief retirement in 1931 King returned to top flight rugby for the home Tests against New Zealand. Australia won the opening Test but then suffered a disastrous 3-21 loss in Brisbane.
The national selectors’ response was swift with both King and the legendary Tommy Lawton among four personnel changes for the final international. A few weeks later there were a series of trial matches for the following year’s trip South Africa. Unfortunately King was unavailable for the tour and his representative came to a close. Nonetheless King continued to serve the game as he became a state and Australian selector. His voice continued to be heard through newspaper columns in The Daily Telegraph and other sporting journals. A thoughtful commentator and a talented journalist, King wrote about the game for more than 30 years. Sid King played 14 Tests for Australia in a seven-year Test career.
King won his first Test cap at inside centre, paired with fellow debutant Cyril Towers, in the 26-20 victory over New Zealand at the Sydney Showground. King retained his spot for the final two matches of that series and picked up a fourth cap when he came off the bench to replace ‘Little George’ Mackay at fullback in the 4th Test, 21-28 defeat.
King did not play in the opening Test against Ireland however he was recalled to start in the final four internationals, against Wales, Scotland, England and France. The loss to England at Twickenham was the only match that Australia did not win when King and Towers were the Wallaby centres.
After eight months away King was unable to secure leave for the New South Wales tour of New Zealand.
King was capped in all three home Tests against New Zealand. Towers partnered him in the two Sydney matches while Victoria’s Gordon Sturtridge started at outside centre in Brisbane.
Towers and King were partnered in the 6-5 victory over the British Lions at the S.C.G.
King was unavailable for the Wallaby tour of New Zealand after he announced his retirement from representative rugby.
King won his final two caps when he played alongside Sturtridge and outside Tommy Lawton in the first two Tests of the home series against New Zealand.