Abused by their coach Ian King and abandoned by cricket, Matthew Rose and his teammates are now fighting back

When Matthew Rose was a boy, his ambitions were not unusual among his peers — he wanted to bowl as fast as Dennis Lillee and he wanted to play Test cricket for Australia.

In the late 1980s, Rose seemed a little more likely than the others to succeed. He possessed the raw ingredients required of pacemen.

With skills honed in his Canberra backyard his talent was confirmed when he was picked in ACT junior squads.

Warning: This article contains content that readers may find distressing

Then he found the coach who would take his game to the next level, or so the adults said.

The coach was imposing and gregarious. He’d been a star fast bowler himself and everyone knew him. He’d played Sheffield Shield cricket. Bob Hawke had picked him in the Prime Minister’s XI.

But what impressed Rose the most was that his coach had once bowled with Lillee.

His name was Ian King and he was going to turn Matthew Rose into a star.

“Cricket was everything to me,” Rose says.

“I’d reached the ACT level by myself, without ‘Kingy’. But when he came along and was introduced to me, there was this thought that I could go further.”

Recalling those times, Rose begins with the positives.

“Look, he was good at what he did,” he says.

“Everything he asked me to do — or 95 per cent of it anyway — he related to cricket or a situation on the field: ‘you’re bowling through a hard stint; you’re up against a big partnership’.”

He repeats himself. 

“He was good at what he did.”

But what King was best at, Rose now concedes, was convincing boys that the uncomfortable moments they experienced in his presence for the other 5 per cent of the time were just “Kingy being Kingy”.

“You were uneasy about certain things, but it was like, ‘oh well, he’s eccentric’,” Rose says.

“He bowled with Dennis Lillee — the greatest Australian fast bowler, who I wanted to be like — so I was going to do the things he asked me to do.”

At first, the “eccentric” things Ian King asked Rose to do included stripping naked and practicing his bowling action down a hallway, in front of a mirror, “so he could see what your muscles were doing”.

“It was uncomfortable,” Rose recalls.

“But I just thought ‘OK, it’s pretty eccentric and out there, but you know, this guy must know what he’s doing’.”

A black and white photo of four men holding a painting.
Ian King (far right) achieved cricketing fame that lasted for decades after his playing career.(National Archives of Australia)

When King asked Rose how often he masturbated, and how thick his penis was, King tried to allay the boy’s fears by relating his answers to the size of the cricket bat he should be holding.

But what followed was a series of requests that even a naive teenager recognised as dangerous and wrong, and although he didn’t know it at the time, an alarming number of his ACT junior teammates would soon have similar experiences.

“He would say ‘there is pornography over there on the TV if you want to go and masturbate’,” Rose says.

“That would extend to him offering you a blow job.

“He’d say ‘look, I used to have to hitchhike from place to place in Queensland, and we used to have to give the driver a blow job to get from place to place, so it’s no big deal for me’.”

‘They did nothing to prevent or stop this type of abuse from happening’

Ian Harold King is 79 years old now. His 22-year jail sentence for sexually abusing schoolboy cricketers will end in 2030, but his health is faltering and those familiar with his case say it seems likely he will die in jail.

For the many survivors of King’s abuse, there is little solace in his incarceration. Last week, one told the ACT Supreme Court that King “stole” his soul.

A black and white portrait of man with a beard smiling.
Bursting onto the Sheffield Shield scene in the late 1960s, King’s looks were likened to Sammy Davis Jnr and his fast bowling to West Indian great Wes Hall.(Australian Cricket magazine)

Imparted with equally stark resonance was the man’s broadside at the cricket administrators he says have sat idly by:

“Still to this very day, neither Cricket ACT or Cricket Australia show any form of compassion, empathy, compensation or public acknowledgement that they did nothing to prevent or stop this type of abuse from happening.”

As a summary of the collective plight of men whose numbers are conservatively estimated by legal sources to total 80-100 victims in the ACT alone, it was hard to discredit.

Despite accepting millions of dollars of combined annual funding from Cricket Australia and the ACT government, and declaring handsome profits, Cricket ACT is yet to join the National Redress Scheme in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and it has not compensated a single one of King’s victims.

Yet three months ago, an ABC Sport Investigation revealed that Cricket ACT (then ACTCA) had, since King’s earliest days as one of the organisation’s elite junior coaches, possessed knowledge that he was a sexual abuser of boys — knowledge it failed to act on.

In June, in the first of what might turn out to be dozens of civil litigation actions against them, Cricket ACT and Cricket Australia were sued by a survivor of King’s abuse whose evidence of administrative failings included a 2006 police statement by former Cricket ACT coach and team manager Ray Hatch, once a colleague of King’s.

“Within this first year that Ian was with ACTCA, rumours were circulating the Association that Ian liked little boys,” Hatch had told police.

“This information came from the interstate cricket community that Ian had come over from, I think it was Western Australia. As a result of these rumours, Richard Done, who was the director of coaching ACTCA at this time, and I kept an eye on Ian’s interaction with the young children.

“As far I knew everything was fine and there were no incidents with Ian.”

A cricketer being swamped by young fans.
King was mobbed by schoolboy fans after his Sheffield Shield debut against Western Australia.(Australian Cricket magazine)

In fact, the incidents were occurring with alarming frequency.

Survivors have told ABC Sport that King’s pattern of offending included simultaneous abuse of up to half a dozen boys in each of his ACT elite junior squads — teams he coached for a decade.

They were a squad within the squad, they say — “hand-picked” for preferential treatment and extra coaching from King, but also the suffering that came with it.

“If you were part of that cohort of people, you were subjected to abuse,” says Phil (not his real name), whose occupation prevents him from talking about his experiences under his own name.

He says that talented boys with big ambitions in cricket were placed in an impossible position by Cricket ACT: scream from the rooftops and compromise your cricketing future or stay silent and hope King moved on to someone else.

“I’d seen how he operated with other cricketers who steered clear of him or turned down his advances, so to speak,” Phil says.

“They were not thrown onto the scrap heap, but they were definitely not provided the same opportunities as people who were coached by him.

“[King’s] status, his stature — he was a big human being, and an intimidating presence. He was loud. He was strong. Combine all of those things with the feeling he could really impact your career if you didn’t listen to what he said.

“There was definitely an element of fear attached to it.”

‘I couldn’t stand the sight of a cricket bat anymore’

Beyond a human tragedy of staggering scale, former elite junior cricketers from the ACT say that Ian King’s crimes robbed Australian cricket of a generation of first-class cricketers.

‘Phil’ was among the brightest prospects — a brilliant middle-order batsman and a spin bowler with a knack for taking important wickets. His dominance of the second national carnival he played in was franked in a semi-final against a powerful New South Wales team, where his century was almost half the ACT score.

A man in a white and blue jacket.
Ian King during his time as a coach of the ACT U17 cricket team. 

But it would be his last innings at the elite level.

A season later, six weeks before Phil was to take part in the Under-19 national carnival and vie for higher honours, the spectre of another trip away with King simply broke his will to go on.

“Everybody around cricket was saying ‘this is your opportunity here’, because it’s where you get picked for the academy sides and things like that,” Phil says.

“But at that stage, I hated cricket too much to even think about going away. The short of it is that I had a fairly promising cricket career that I effectively threw away, simply because I couldn’t stand the sight of a cricket bat anymore.

“It was giving me memories and thoughts that I just didn’t need to have.”

King had been sexually abusing Phil for six years. Like others before him, Phil had long accepted the coach’s degradations as the price of pursuing his dream, but once his breaking point came, the 17-year-old was done for good.

“There are no guarantees in elite sport, as far as what you achieve and where you get to, but to have something you love taken away from you is a pretty significant thing,” Phil says.

“At this stage of my life, I look back and there is so much regret attached to that. A lot of people I played with and against went on to achieve great things, and whether or not that would have been me, who knows? But I would have liked to have tried.”

Only in the last five years, with the gradual retirements of players he once mixed it with, has Phil been able to watch cricket again. Instead of a baggy green cap, his crowning achievement in cricket was to “do the right thing”, leading the charge of the dozen survivors who first confronted Ian King in court, ensuring the coach was jailed for his crimes.

“I chose to press criminal charges as I needed to ensure that I did all I could to protect others from potential harm,” Phil says.

“From a personal perspective, I also needed to confront and deal with something that had impacted my life in so many ways since I was first abused. I needed to take control back, and start the process of mending and striving for a light out of the darkness.

“I saw myself as someone who was capable of going through the process in a way to pave the way for others.

“That worked for some people and not for others, to be perfectly honest.”

He rues the devastation he has seen among his peers — the horror stories that should shame cricket but which seem not to.

“To hear there was an understanding [of King’s offending], I’m not surprised by it, but disappointment is not a strong enough word for it,” Phil says.

Leave a Comment